06/08/2009, 00.00
ISRAEL - VATICAN
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Church funds seized in the Holy Land. Custody delegate speaks out

Fr. David Jaeger hopes that the gesture is the act of a “single functionary” and that it will be disowned by Netanyahu’s government. The Israeli ambassador to the Holy See is unavailable to comment.
Rome (AsiaNews) – “An extraordinary step” which hopefully “will be disowned” by the Israeli government, in the framework of ongoing negotiations on the Fundamental Agreement between Israel and the Holy See: this is how the delegate of the Custody of the Holy Land, Fr. David Jaeger comments to AsiaNews on the news that the Israeli Ministry for Finance has seized the funds of some ecclesiastical institutions.  The move came only a few days after Benedict XVI’s visit to Israel, and was carried out by Yehezkel Abrahamoff , Tax Chief at the Israeli Ministry for Finance.  It appears that the seizure of funds is aimed at forcing the Church to pay taxes, without waiting the outcome of ongoing negotiations between the Holy See and Israel, which also deal with the fiscal statute of the Church in Israel.

So far there has been no statement from the Israeli Embassy to the Holy See.  An embassy official told AsiaNews that ambassador Mordechay Lewy is not in the office today.

In a statement to AsiaNews Fr. David Jaeger, the delegate of the Custody of the Holy Land, said: "Not having received any instructions as to this - and given the extreme delicacy of the subject matter -  I am at this time unable to reply to reporters' questions as to whether the Custody of the Holy Land has been targeted by the attachment of Church funds reportedly decreed by an official of the Finance Ministry, a Mr. Yehezkel Abrahamoff”.

“In a personal capacity, I can express only the hope that this extraordinary initiative, if confirmed, be found to be that of an uninformed individual functionary, and that in the next few hours it will disowned and overturned by his Superiors, in keeping with the well-known treaty obligation of the State (in the framework of its Fundamental Agreement with the Holy See) to abstain rigorously from any such unilateral moves while negotiations are pending on the plane of public international law."

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