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    » 12/18/2008, 00.00


    Holy See-Israel delegation speeds up work ahead of pope's visit to Holy Land

    Arieh Cohen

    The next round of meetings has been scheduled: four in just three months, after years of inaction. The date of the plenary assembly has been moved up, and everything will be completed before May of 2009, when Benedict XVI is expected to arrive in the Holy Land.

    Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - The permanent bilateral commission between the Holy See and the state of Israel today concluded its plenary meeting at the foreign ministry in Jerusalem, and decided on a packed schedule of meetings, leading to hopes that some conclusion might be reached before the probable visit of Benedict XVI to the Holy Land in May of 2009.

    In the statement released at the end of today's meeting, it is affirmed that "the working-level Commission will hold meetings on 15 January, 18 February, 5 March and 26 March." This is rather unusual, if one considers that the dialogue has been proceeding at a very slow pace for about 10 years, and for almost 5 years (from 2002-2007) has been at a halt. The plenary meeting - which according to custom should have been held in June of 2009 - was also moved up. The statement says that "it was agreed to hold the next Plenary meeting on 23 April 2009," and that the packed agenda is intended to demonstrate the commitment of the two delegations to "accelerate the talks and conclude the agreement at the earliest opportunity."

    In ecclesial circles in the Holy Land, this sudden hurry of the mixed commission is seen in connection with the desire to reach some result before the expected visit of Benedict XVI to the Holy Land. Although the Vatican has not yet confirmed or denied this, in Israel, Palestine, and Jordan it is thought that the pope will arrive in the Holy Land in the first half of May.

    As in previous statements, the one released today also speaks of "an atmosphere of great cordiality and good will"; of work aimed at "achievement of the mutually desired accord" and of exchanges "significant and helpful" for "both sides." For almost 10 years, the Church and the state of Israel have been trying to reach an agreement to reconfirm the historical tax exemptions for the Church, and to agree on rules for the protection of Church property, especially the holy sites.

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    See also

    01/05/2009 ISRAEL – VATICAN
    Holy See-Israel: progress but no agreement before Pope’s visit
    During the plenary meeting the two delegations made “significant progress,” but negotiations will continue till next December when a meeting will be held in the Vatican. Since 1999 the Church’s tax exemption status and the return of holy sites and expropriated and razed Church properties are the main issues on the table.

    11/05/2009 VATICAN – ISRAEL
    Holocaust can never be denied, belittled or forgotten, Pope says
    In a direct approach Benedict XVI addresses issues sensitive to Israel in an apparent attempt to meet expectations raised by his presence in the country.

    27/11/2008 ISRAEL - VATICAN
    Benedict XVI will go to the Holy Land, possibly in May
    The news has been released by Haaretz, and has been partly confirmed by the Israeli embassy to the Holy See, according to which "contacts" are underway for a "probable" visit of the pope next year.

    20/05/2009 VATICAN-HOLY LAND
    Peace is possible in the Holy Land, with the help of faith, says Pope
    In his general audience, Benedict XVI retraces the steps of his recent trip to Jordan, Israel and Palestine. Respect for religious freedom in Jordan. The Shoah, a “universal warning” that must nit be forgotten. The rejection of all violence. An appeal for communications: that “cyberspace maybe a place to promote a culture of respect, dialogue and authentic friendship”.

    17/04/2008 ISRAEL - HOLY SEE
    Cordiality and signs of mutual trust between the Jewish state and the Vatican
    This is what is emerging from the meeting of the Bilateral Permanent Working Commission, which renews its commitment to accelerate the conclusion of an agreement. Among the objectives, the restitution of the Cenacle. The plenary meeting in Rome on May 28.

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