02/19/2009, 00.00
ISRAEL - VATICAN
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Hope for a conclusion in Holy See-Israel talks before Pope's arrival in Holy Land

by Arieh Cohen
The Bilateral Commission met yesterday. The joint communiqué speaks of “progress” towards an agreement in the making since 1999.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The Bilateral Permanent Working Commission between the Holy See and the State of Israel met on Wednesday 18 February, at the seat of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to continue negotiating a treaty that would confirm the fiscal status of the Church in Israel, and safeguard her properties, especially the sacred places, as well as bring about restitution of some that have been lost over time. These negotiations began on 11 March 1999.

The convoy of motor vehicles with diplomatic number plates, with on board the negotiators for the Holy See, was seen arriving at the Foreign Ministry a little before 10 a.m., and leaving again a little before 1 p.m. The negotiators did not grant interviews, and only spoke, together with the Israeli Foreign Ministry, through a joint communiqué. Interest has been aroused by the fact that this time the communiqué speaks of "progress" that was achieved, beyond repeating the usual references to an atmosphere of "great cordiality" and to the shared determination to conclude the agreement "as soon as possible".  For observers, the hope is thus being offered of further progress still before the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI who is expected to come to the Holy Land as a Pilgrim in May of this year.

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