JERUSALEM - The designation of Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity as a UNESCO World Heritage site complicates relations between the three churches that oversee the holy site as well as relations between the Israeli and Palestinian communities, said a church official.

Archbishop Antonio Franco, papal nuncio to Israel and the Palestinian territories, said the Catholic Church believes the church which marks the site of Christ's birth is part of the church's "patrimony as holy places, not because they are on a UNESCO list."

Published in International

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia - UNESCO has placed sites in Bethlehem, West Bank — including the Church of the Nativity — on its list of World Heritage in Danger.

In a 13-6 vote with two abstentions, the World Heritage Committee added the sites to the danger list June 29 during a meeting in St. Petersburg.

Published in International

BETHLEHEM - Ten years ago, for 40 days in April and May 2002, the Church of the Nativity was occupied by armed gunmen. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) were outside, the Palestinian armed forces inside, and the Christian world fervently tried not to take offence.

It was a shameful episode, both in its substance and in the reaction to it, a sad signal at the beginning of this century that the persecution of Christians would proceed apace.

Published in Fr. Raymond de Souza

BETHLEHEM, West Bank - Jamal Salman stood on one side of the double chain-link fence, on land belonging to his family. On the other side of the Israeli-erected fences, only a few hundred yards away but beyond his reach, was more family land with a grove of olive trees.

In November, Salman and more than 180 Bethlehem landowners were informed that Israel had placed their olive groves -- more than 1,700 acres of land located beyond the barrier -- under the Guardian of Absentee Property, deeming the owners of these lands as "absentees." This is the last step before formal confiscation.

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