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November 07, 2002

Vatican, urging Christians to stay in Holy Land, donates $400K

Let my people stay.
VATICAN CITY - The Vatican is giving $400,000 to Roman Catholic causes in Israel and the West Bank to try to improve life for Christians there and persuade them not to flee the ongoing fighting.

Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, head of Cor Unum, the Vatican's charity arm, will deliver the money and an appeal for Christians to remain in the region during a November 7-10 visit, the Vatican said Wednesday.

A statement from Cor Unum noted that religious tourism to the region had fallen precipitously in the past two years of fighting, particularly after a standoff earlier this year between IDF troops and Palestinian militants holed up in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

"It's understandable why there is a desire among many to leave the country," the statement said. "The safekeeping of holy sites, however, would be seriously put in danger if Christians abandoned them."

Cordes will deliver the $400,000, as well as an appeal from Pope John Paul II to "encourage Christians to remain in these tortured places, like so many missionaries already are doing in heroic fashion," the statement said.

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