Israel: Cremisan Valley confiscation will 'finish Christians' mayor tells Vatican

Bethlehem's Mayor Vera Baboun with the Church of the Holy Nativity in the background.Reuters

The extension of Israel's 'separation wall' in the fertile Cremisan Valley will mean that there is no future for Christians in the Bethlehem region, according to the Mayor of Bethlehem.

Palestinian Catholic Prof Vera Baboun has appealed to the Vatican for help.

"They want to build the separation Wall in the Cremisan valley and then expropriate the lands that belong to Palestinian Christians. If that happens, the whole area will be suppressed from the grip of the wall, and the first to go will be Christians," she told the Fides news agency.

Baboun visited Rome with other mayors of Bethlehem's "Christian triangle", Nicola Khamis from Beit Jala and Hani al-Hayek from Beit Sahour, and Issa Kassissieh, Ambassador of Palestine to the Holy See.

As well as lands with vineyards and olive groves belonging to 58 Christian families in Beit Jala, the route of the wall in the Cremisan Valley also threatens two monasteries and a Salesian school.

According to Baboun, if the lands of the valley are confiscated, "There will be no future for Christians: the population density will rise to unsustainable levels and many will eventually choose the path of the exodus, which has already reduced the Christian presence in the Holy Land."

Following an audience with Pope Francis, the delegation met Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin. Baboun told the Fides news agency: "We have reached a tipping point. We showed Cardinal Parolin maps and photos that we had with us and he listened carefully, with great concern."

Israel's plans for the Cremisan Valley have stirred fierce opposition among Churches, who argue, with other opponents, that it represents a land grab. Supporters say that it is necessary for military reasons.

The Israeli Supreme Court of Justice has yet to decide the issue.