All Christian sites throughout the Holy Land will be closed today and tomorrow. The action is in protest against the construction of a mosque in Nazareth near the Church of the Annunciation. Last ditch talks last night between the Israeli Government and the Latin Patriarch failed to avert the strike. Although the cornerstone-laying ceremony for the Mosque will take place tomorrow, actual construction will only begin after the millennium celebrations.
Pilgrims from all over the world have expressed disappointment at the decision while political leaders, including Yasser Arafat, have urged the churches to change their minds. Many Christians in Israel have come out against the strike and Israeli officials have described the situation as lamentable. Preparations are already underway for the visit of Pope John Paul II early next year, but there are fears that the ongoing tensions between Christians and Muslims will sour the occasion.