06/08/2009, 00.00
ISRAEL – VATICAN
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Israel rescinds order to freeze Church funds in the Holy Land

Israel’s Embassy to the Holy See releases statement saying that Church funds will not be frozen, that the current “situation remains unchanged.” Foreign Ministry blames the incident on a “misunderstanding.” Father Jaeger hopes talks between the Holy See and Israel will continue till an agreement is reached, including the tax status of the Church.
Rome (AsiaNews) – The order by Israel’s Finance Ministry to freeze funds held by some Church institutions has been rescinded. A press release by the Israel’s Vatican Embassy said that “the seizure of funds by the Ministry of Education destined for education institutions of the Catholic Church in Israel shall not be carried out. The [current] situation remains unchanged.”

On 20 May the Chief Tax Collector at Israel's Finance Ministry Yehezkel Abrahamoff informed Catholic Church institutions that his office was seizing their funds to pay for taxes he thought they owed the State.

The decision appeared to be an attempt to stop the Holy See and the State of Israel from reaching an agreement on, among other things, the tax status of the Church and its educational and charitable organisations in Israel.

The Pope’s recent visit to Israel and his warm welcome by Israeli authorities seemed to indicate that the Fundamental Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Israel would be reached shortly.

By contrast, Abrahamoff’s action seemed to signal a change in policy by the Netanyahu government.

Sources in Jerusalem told AsiaNews that the incident was a “misunderstanding” according to the Foreign Ministry, which blamed the action on an careless official who was “unaware of the list of Catholic institutions that are included in the talks Israel and the Holy See are holding” in order to reach a tax agreement.

Informed by AsiaNews, the Delegate in Rome of the Custody of the Holy Land Fr David Jaeger expressed great satisfaction in seeing confirmed his own thesis that the seizure had been an individual initiative of a single official that the government was going to disown and reverse once it heard about it.

Now “I trust,” Father Jaeger said, “that the negotiations between the high parties, the Holy See and the State of Israel, will continue in a climate of serenity, in full accord with the shared commitment, often announced, of reaching the Agreement as soon as possible.”

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