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    » 07/06/2009, 00.00

    VATICAN - ISRAEL

    Holy See-Israel dialogue on the eve of meeting between the Pope and Obama

    Arieh Cohen

    The Bilateral Commission will meet July 9. The U.S. administration has long been concerned with the resolution of problems in relations between the State of Israel and the Holy See, which perhaps will be a topic at the meeting between Barack Obama and Benedict XVI. Father Jaeger is cautious but optimistic.

    Tel Aviv (AsiaNews) - The Bilateral Permanent Commission between the Holy See and the State of Israel, the first since the Pilgrimage of Pope Benedict XVI, will take place at Israel’s Foreign Ministry next Thursday, 9 July. There has been no official announcement, but it is already known in ecclesiastical and diplomatic circles. Is it purely by chance that this will be the day before U.S. President Barack Obama will be received in Audience by the Supreme Pontiff in the Vatican? Probably not.

    At least since 2003-2004, Israel is particularly aware of the support of the United States for the hopes of the Catholic Church to enjoy legal and fiscal security in Israel. This indeed is the purpose the negotiations underway since 11 March 1999. Many times since then, members and staff of the U.S. Congress, but also American officials and diplomats have interceded – though always kindly and in friendliest fashion, as appropriate between friends – in order to encourage successive Israeli governments to a more exact observance of the Agreements already made with the Holy See (in 1993 and 1997, respectively), and especially in order to recommend greater engagement in the current negotiations.

    The United States have a special interest in the matter, not only because of their role in persuading the Holy See to establish official relations with Israel even before securing the situation of the Church in the Jewish State, but also because a very high portion of the offerings that sustain the Church in the Holy Land are made by U.S. citizens-taxpayers-voters of Catholic faith.

    The tensions that have emerged on occasion between the Church’s hierarchy and he Obama Administration (over such ethically sensitive matters as legalised abortion, the use of embryos for research and the like) can only contribute to increasing this interest of the present U.S. Government, which is probably looking for ways to increase and consolidate the esteem of the Church in its regard. In fact, seasoned observers suggest, it is possible that the relations between the Catholic Church and the State of Israel will rate a mention in the talks in the Vatican on 10 July. Such a possibility can only be helpful to the renewed Holy See – Israel talks to take place on the day before. But the road to agreement may still not be a short one.

    The Agreement that the Parties committed themselves to reaching (as long ago as 1993), on fiscal and property matters, is defined by them as a “comprehensive” one. Its elements are by now more than well known: Safeguarding Church property, especially the Holy Places; a guarantee of due process for the Church; a fiscal régime that will recognise and reconfirm the rights the Church had already acquired by the time of the creation of the State of Israel; social security for clergy and religious.

    Contacted by AsiaNews at his university office in Rome, Franciscan Father David-Maria Jaeger, an expert on Church-State relations in Israel, prudently abstains from any comment on these subjects. He limits himself rigorously to the suggestions he says he offers any and all journalists who ask him to shed light on the matter: “The safe way to evaluate the progress of the negotiations is to follow attentively the Joint Communiqués usually issued at the end of the bilateral meetings, in order to see how much time is being dedicated to the negotiations. The more the Commission meets, the more probable and the nearer the Agreement”.

    “In my view – he adds – this principle is always valid, and not only in this case: By negotiating everything can be resolved, while nothing can be resolved by not negotiating.” Is Father optimistic?

    “As a Christian believer and as a Franciscan, I have a vocation to optimism”, Father Jaeger answers. He adds: “It seems that too much work has already been invested in this for the Parties not to do everything possible to reach the Agreement.”

    If Father Jaeger is right, much will be able to be learnt from the schedule of meetings for the next few months, which – if it follows precedent – the Commission may publish at the end of the 9 July meeting (until now only the date of the next Plenary is known, 10 December this year).

    Except, of course, for surprises.

     

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    See also

    18/12/2008 VATICAN - ISRAEL
    Holy See-Israel delegation speeds up work ahead of pope's visit to Holy Land
    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.

    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.

    11/12/2009 VATICAN - ISRAEL
    Holy See-Israel talks in crisis, according to Yedioth Aharonoth
    The most popular newspaper quotes the head of Israeli delegation Daniel Ayalon who speaks of failure in sight. Yet the joint statement exalts "mutual understanding". According to experts, an Israeli government trick to placate anti-Christian fundamentalist Israelis. Concerns over the possibility of confiscation of Capharnaum and the basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

    22/09/2010 VATICAN - ISRAEL
    Holy See - Israel meet on protection of holy sites and fiscal status
    As has become tradition, the meeting took place in a "cordial" atmosphere and saw "progress." But the joint statement did not mention the dates of future meetings, which had been agreed.

    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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