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Catholic World News News Feature

Palestinians Take Sides In Russian Orthodox Dispute July 09, 1997

JERUSALEM (CWN) - Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority intervened in an internal Russian Orthodox dispute over churches in the Holy Land this week at the request of Patriarch Aleksei II.

PA police forcibly evicted priest and nuns from church properties this week as the Russian Orthodox Church continues its worldwide campaign to recover properties lost to churches that split off during the Communist era. The churches-in-exile were called "White Russians."

In a meeting with Arafat last month, the patriarch asked for help recovering churches, monasteries, and convents in the West Bank city of Hebron and elsewhere in Palestinian controlled areas. Monks and nuns evicted from the Hebron monastery on Saturday said the police refused to produce any documentation and five monks and two nuns until they required hospitalization.

An aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the church raid, saying it violated the Israeli-Palestinian peace agreements under which both sides are to respect holy sites. New York-based Russian Orthodox Archbishop Laurus, who opposes Patriarch Aleksei's actions, condemned the action in a statement as "a flagrant violation of international law."

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