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Catholic World News News Feature

Vatican Criticizes Israel As Dispute Continues August 10, 1998

VATICAN CITY ( - The Vatican on Friday continued to criticize Israel in the wake of attempts by Israel to block the appointment of a Palestinian as archbishop in Galilee.

The Holy See's mission to the United Nations released a statement last Thursday expressing support for a June decision by the Security Council criticizing Israel for expanding Jerusalem's jurisdiction to several West Bank settlements to maintain the Jewish majority. "It certainly does not favor a dialogue aimed at a solution of the problem of the Holy City," the statement said. Monsignor George Panikulam, mission spokesman, refused to say why the statement was being distributed now, but it appeared connected to the bishop dispute.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week publicly criticized Pope John Paul's appointment of Bishop Butros Muallem, a Palestinian refugee serving as a bishop in Brazil, as the Melkite-rite archbishop of Akka, and said he had tried to block the appointment. "I discussed the nomination with the Vatican's representative in Israel, and expressed my concern regarding the politicization of nominations of the church," Netanyahu said.

The Vatican, in a strongly-worded statement, reminded Israel on Friday that the Church has the right to choose her own bishops, and that the Holy See and Israel had signed an accord to that effect.