02/27/2008, 00.00
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For Christians talks with Israel are about vital issues, says nuncio

Mgr Antonio Franco says progress is being made, acknowledging the Jewish State is showing great understanding. He looks at the situation in which Christian communities find themselves in the Holy Land, explaining that a papal trip to the region requires greater serenity.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Some “progress is being made” in the negotiations between the Holy See and Israel over tax and Church property in the Holy Land. “The State of Israel is showing great understanding,” but the Vatican will not sign a deal that places burdens that local Catholics cannot bear, explained Mgr Antonio Franco, apostolic nuncio to Israel. Any “hope” for a visit by Benedict XVI lies in “a more serene atmosphere. Insofar as practical problems are resolved, and progress is possibly made on the Palestinian question—the fundamental problem which is at the basis of all the others—a climate is created and the foundations are laid for a journey by the Pope.”

Speaking to Terrasanta.net, the nuncio said that negotiations were not at a standstill even though “the Vatican delegation did not immediately accept the two proposals on tax exemption put forward by Israel.

“The Holy See is not asking for privileges,” he explained. “We are asking, in the name of the Catholic Church, that the rights enjoyed until now by Christian residents in that very special land are implemented. And this is being asked because it is a question of life or death. If the Catholic communities in the Holy Land have to be subject to the obligations of taxes they will gradually disappear”.

An agreement has to be found,” he added, “because we are not at loggerheads. Everybody realizes the importance and the value of the Christian presence, including the Israeli authorities. Therefore, we have to reach harmony between the different forces in the field.

I have to say,” he insisted, “that there is real collaboration to find solutions that are satisfactory for both.”

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