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    » 06/08/2009, 00.00

    ISRAEL - VATICAN

    Ministry for Finance seizes Church funds. Holy See-Israeli negotiations at stake

    Arieh Cohen

    Only weeks after Benedict XVI’s visit to Israel, Tax Chief Yehezkel Abrahamoff, has seized church funds to force ecclesial institutions to pay tax, instead of waiting for the outcome of negotiations on the fiscal statute of the Church in Israel. A personal initiative or a change in the policy of the Netanyahu government? Possibile problems for schools and hospitals.
    Tel Aviv (AsiaNews) -  The Chief Tax Collector at Israel's Finance Ministry, Yehezkel Abrahamoff, has notified institutions of the Catholic Church in Israel that he has seized their funds, in order to force them to submit at once to all of the fiscal demands that he considers applicable to them, ahead of the Agreement on the fiscal status of the Church, which is being negotiate, among other things, between the Holy See and the State of Israel.

    In the last few hours, AsiaNews has received both documentation and testimony to this effect. The institutions concerned have, however, insisted on not being named, for fear of reprisals on the part of the Tax Authority. The radical initiative of Mr. Abrahamoff comes only a few weeks after the departure from Israel of Pope Benedict XVI, whose visit was thought to favour precisely progress towards the much awaited Agreement between the Holy See and the Jewish State. At this time it is not yet possible to know whether it is a matter of the personal decision of a single functionary, albeit a particularly powerful one, or whether it reflects a radical change of direction by the Netanyahu Government. An expert on Church-State relations in Israel, reached by AsiaNews, says he is confident that the Government knows nothing of what he says must be the idea of a single individual. The expert foresees that when the Head of the Government is informed of the matter, the functionary will be reprimanded and the attachment orders annulled, with apologies.

    The negotiators for the Holy See and the State of Israel, the expert recalls, issued their most recent Joint Communiqué on 30 April, when they spoke of the talks as being conducted "in friendship", and re-committed the Parties to working out bilaterally an agreed fiscal regime for the Church in Israel. But the Government, he adds, will have to intervene quickly to avoid the serious damage that the "excesses" of a single functionary could cause to the good relations with the Church. In any case, he observes, the Government's intervention to quash the orders will have to be very quick, since otherwise the institutions of the Church, especially schools and hospitals may soon find it difficult to cover essential expenses for the purchase of goods and services.

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    See also

    19/09/2005 ISRAEL – VATICAN
    Pope eager to see Fundamental Agreement between Holy See and Israel fulfilled
    In his meeting with Israel's Chief Rabbis, Benedict XVI explicitly made reference to Israel's need to fulfil its commitments to the Church. Talks between the two delegations resume on September 22.

    27/03/2007 VATICAN - ISRAEL
    Israeli Delegation will not keep appointment at the Vatican
    The "plenary" session had been planned for longtime. They were working to a “comprehensive agreement” on legal and fiscal security for the Church in Israel. The process was started by the magnanimity and trust of John Paul II. Disappointment and pain among Church officials.

    12/05/2009 VATICAN - ISRAEL
    Catholics still waiting for the return of the Cenacle, Father Jaeger says
    The Israeli Franciscan stresses that the Custody of the Holy Land and the Church still want the return of the holy place. In 2000 media reports had raised hope that Israel might be willing to return the Cenacle to John Paul II but nothing has happened so far. Ownership remains an issue in search of a solution.

    23/04/2009 VATICAN - ISRAEL
    “Meaningful progress” in bilateral talks between the Holy See and Israel
    After meeting today, the bilateral commission issued an upbeat press release. Talks between the two sides have been ongoing since 1999. The commission’s next meeting is scheduled for 30 April in Israel, just before the Pope’s visit. Mgr Pietro Parolin and Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon will be present.

    17/05/2007 VATICAN - ISRAEL
    Holy See and Israel to hold plenary meeting on May 21
    Originally scheduled for last March and then cancelled, it is the first such meeting in five years. An expert, Fr David M. Jaeger, discusses it.



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