05/24/2004, 00.00
VATICAN - ISRAEL
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Cardinal Kasper visits Jerusalem

The cardinal is scheduled to discuss the issue of visas for religious and the emigration of Christians from the Holy Land.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Meetings with political and religious leaders, from Israeli president Moshe Katzav to the Jewish community's chief rabbis and heads of Christian Churches, are all scheduled to take place on Cardinal Walter Kasper's trip to Jerusalem.

Cardinal Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity and the Commission for Relations with Jews, will begin his trip to Jerusalem in the Holy Land, today and will conclude his stay this May 28. 

The Vatican prelate will take up discussion on various delicate matters such as the issue of entry visas for the Church's religious personnel and the status of its property and institutions in the Holy Land.

The cardinal will also speak with political and religious authorities about the growing exodus of Catholic communities out of the region in the face of great difficulties. 

Before departing for the Holy Land, Cardinal Kasper said during an interview on Vatican Radio that his visit must first of all encourage inter-religious relations: "We have a good commission made up of a mix of Jews and Catholics in Israeli," he said.

Kasper added later in the interview, "There are political problems concerning visas and Christian properties (there)."

Regarding the emigration problem he said,"Young Christians still do not have much hope, and this leads to a major exodus from the region. This has caused great harm (to the community), since the Christian Church has had a strong presence for centuries in the Holy Land. If we go (there) we don't want to be considered mere lifeless rocks, but living ones. All this must be faced and discussed."

The cardinal will also meet with Church leaders, particularly with the patriarch of the Orthodox Church and the ecumenical patriarch "since it is necessary that (all the Christian) Churches work together in these difficult times for the peace and common good not just of the Jewish people but of the Palestinian population as well."

"They are suffering greatly and we stand united behind them," Kasper said.

The cardinal ended by promising, "Certainly, I will meet also with members of the Catholic community who find themselves in a difficult situation (too) and are in need of much encouragement and words of hope."
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