11/29/2004, 00.00
ISRAEL – PALESTINE – HOLY LAND
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Custody of the Holy Land: Christian Sanctuaries belong to the Churches

Arab and Israeli ambiguities cast a shadow over Churches' full ownership of Holy Places.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – "Christian Sanctuaries belong to their respective Churches and the religious bodies that hold title deeds over them", this according to a statement released by the Custody of the Holy Land received by AsiaNews.

The Custody's statement is intended to clear up any doubts about the so-called "Arab ownership of the Holy Places", especially those in the areas under the control of the Palestinian National Authority.

Recently, a conference was held in Amman (Jordan) on 'Threats and Prospects of Survival of the Muslim and Christian Sanctities in Palestine' under the auspices of the Islamic Education, Science and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) and Jordanian and Kuwaiti cultural institutions.

Fr Hannah Kildani, a Jordanian clergyman who represented the Latin Vicariate of Amman and Jerusalem, said that "the Christian Sanctities belong not only to Christians but also to all Arabs, Muslims and Christians alike".

In its statement, the Custody said that Christian Sanctuaries in the Holy Land "can be said to symbolically belong to the spiritual heritage of humanity", but this in no way can raise doubts about the title deeds of the aforementioned owners".

AsiaNews asked Fr David Jaeger, a Franciscan of the Holy Land and a legal expert, to explain the meaning of the statement by the Custody of the Holy Land. Father Jaeger said: "The ambiguities of the statements coming from Jordan could lead to manipulation and interpretations for the entire Holy Land. The Catholic Church is currently trying to have Israel change one of its laws that prevents it from going to court to defend its property rights over sanctuaries. It is necessary that the Church's full right of property over its sanctuaries be recognised; otherwise, property rights can be challenged."

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