Nuncio cautious about church's designation as World Heritage site
Published: July 3, 2012
JERUSALEM (CNS) -- 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." He explained to Catholic News Service that the "sensitivity of the issue and all its repercussions" make it difficult to properly convey the Catholic Church's position on the designation. "Unfortunately (the decision) can't be put in the abstract," he said. Archbishop Franco said because of the "concrete situations" between Israel and the Palestinian territories, the "political implications" of such a decision cannot be overlooked. The designation had been opposed by the custos of the Holy Land, Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa. He told the Italian bishops' news agency SIR the Franciscans last fall that he and other Christian leaders believed the initiative would make "it harder for us to run (the church), because, under UNESCO rules, the board in charge of running a place for the U.N. agency is the government, not the owner of a site."
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