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Holy Land To See Millennium Events

November 17, 1998

JERUSALEM (AP) _ The Assembly of Catholic Bishops in the Holy Land on Monday unveiled a calendar of millennium celebrations that includes events aimed at bringing together Muslims, Jews and Christians.

``It will be an occasion to join all together, really to praise God on this opportunity,″ said Bishop Kamal-Hanna Bathish, the chief organizer of celebrations commemorating the 2000th anniversary of Jesus’ birth.

The Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, said that for the time being, the pope has not made plans to visit Jerusalem during the millennium. Such a visit would require ``better times,″ Sabbah said.

Pope John Paul II has expressed a keen desire to visit Jerusalem as part of the millennium celebrations, but has not announced concrete plans to do so. The pope has declared the Holy Land and Rome as the two focal points of the millennium celebrations.

The Vatican does not recognize Israel’s claim to the entire city of Jerusalem. It has asked that sites holy to Christians, Jews and Muslims be protected by an international statute.

The millennium celebrations in the Holy Land will begin on Christmas Eve 1999 and run though the Epiphany holyday in January 2001.

Among the events planned are prayer vigils on the last day of the millennium, Dec. 31, 1999; pilgrimages to Christian sites; and a day for weddings and renewal of vows at Cana, where Jesus performed his first miracle at a wedding feast by turning water into wine.

Some of the year’s events aim to create a dialogue between Judaism, Christianity and Islam, said Father Robert J. Fortin. Among these events are a meeting of the religions in Jerusalem and an event for youth in Haifa.

Israel is expecting up to 4.5 million tourists, about twice the usual number, during the millennium celebrations. Fortin, however, said estimates were probably too high and that the number of pilgrims would be limited by space in hotels.

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