Vatican City (AsiaNews) The Secretary of State of the Holy See Card. Angelo Sodano met Israel's Interior Minister Avraham Poraz this morning at 9:45. The Vatican Press Office released a statement at the end of the meeting.
According to the statement said the talks focused on matters under the minister's jurisdiction leaving out issues such as peace, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the overall situation in the Middle East. The Holy See's views on these issues [are] . . . well known to the Israeli government.
"Entry visas for religious personnel of the Catholic Church" and the "tax regime applied to church institutions in Israel" were among the questions the two parties discussed in view of implementing the 1993 Fundamental Agreement.
The visa question relates to a procedural problem and involves hundreds of religious men and women who work in Israel and whose visa was either not renewed or renewed with substantial delay. It also concerns the many students and novices from Asia and Africa who are denied entry visas, including tourist visas. To that effect, "the Ministry," the statement said, "has provided the necessary assurances that appropriate instructions were given to reach a satisfactory solution."
When talks between Israel and the Holy See were recently re-started, the issue concerning the tax regime applied to Church properties was also discussed. Tax exemption status, which was incorporated in the Fundamental Agreement, is guaranteed under Israeli law and confirmed by the United Nations. However, it has not yet been implemented by Israel.
In Israel, tax exemption for Church properties falls under the jurisdiction of the Interior Ministry.
During his visit, Interior Minister Poraz had an audience with the Pope in Castel Gandolfo.