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Vatican fires back at israel on terrorism comments

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Vatican fires back at Israel on terrorism comments
Fri Jul 29, 2005 1:44 AM IST

By Shasta Darlington

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican told Israel on Thursday that it would not take orders from anyone, as a diplomatic row boiled over into the biggest challenge yet to face to Benedict's 100-day-old papacy.

In an unusually stern statement, the Vatican also rejected claims that Benedict and his predecessor had failed to condemn Palestinian attacks on Israelis over the years.

"The Holy See cannot take lessons or instructions from any other authority on the tone and content of its own statements," the Vatican said.

Earlier this week, Israel demanded the Vatican explain why Pope Benedict failed to mention a deadly Palestinian attack in a speech voicing sympathy for other nations struck by Islamist suicide bombers.

The row has proved the biggest challenge yet of Benedict's 100-day-old papacy.

Addressing the faithful last Sunday, Benedict deplored the "death, destruction and suffering in countries including Egypt, Turkey, Iraq and Britain," and asked God to "stay the hands of assassins ... driven by fanaticism and hate."

Israel's Foreign Ministry said it summoned the Vatican ambassador to ask why the sermon had not mentioned a July 12 suicide bombing by the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad that killed five Israelis.


"The Pope's omission of this incident cries out to the heavens," the ministry statement said.

The Vatican said the Pope's words had been distorted and that he had explicitly referred to more recent attacks, but the dispute has refused to die down with an Israeli Foreign Ministry official telling the Jerusalem Post that not condemning terrorism in Israel had been Vatican policy for years.

In Thursday's statement, the Vatican defended Pope John Paul, who died in April, saying he had publicly condemned Palestinian attacks on "numerous" occasions, and listing many of his comments.

The statement said the late pontiff was prevented from denouncing every attack because the Jewish state sometimes followed with retaliations that were "not always compatible with international rights."

John Paul, while long a staunch supporter of the Palestinian struggle for statehood, won Israeli hearts with decades of effort to repair Catholic-Jewish ties severely tested by the Holocaust.

Benedict has yet to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in public, but he has vowed to continue working for interfaith understanding, and this month said he would "give priority" to an invitation from Sharon to visit Israel.

The German-born Pope is also scheduled to visit a synagogue during his trip to Germany next month, marking the second time a pope enters a Jewish place of worship in 2,000 years.

After a holiday in the Italian Alps, Benedict headed to the papal residence in Castelgandolfo south of Rome on Thursday.

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