WASHINGTON (November 1, 1999) -- In a letter to President Clinton, Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference (NCCB/USCC), expressed great concern over developments in the Israeli city of Nazareth regarding the treatment of Christians and the building of a mosque adjacent to the Basilica of the Annunciation.
Bishop Fiorenza said the Israeli government's acquiescence to Islamist extremists has exacerbated feelings of extreme vulnerability by the indigenous Christian population in Nazareth and has raised real concerns about the Israeli government's capacity to provide adequate protection and access to Holy Places and to safeguard the rights of religious minorities in the Holy Land.
"Insofar as the decision responds to extremist demands, it will encourage Christians to emigrate from Israel and continue to threaten the viability of the Christian community in the Holy Land," the Bishop said.
Bishop Fiorenza asked President Clinton during his visit to Oslo to "express United States concern over developments in Nazareth, and ask Prime Minister Barak to consider the impact of recent actions on Israel's credibility in serving as a guardian of the Holy Places and protector of religious minorities."
Bishop Fiorenza's letter to President Clinton was delivered to the White House prior to the President's departure for Oslo, where he is to attend talks on the Mideast peace process with Minister Ehud Barak of Israel and the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat.
Text of Bishop Fiorenza's letter to President Clinton.