02/06/2008, 00.00
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Holy See-Israel Commission meet again

by Arieh Cohen
The short press release says talks between the parties were conducted in “great cordiality.” another meeting has been set for 17 March. Negotiations have been going on for 15 years.

Tel Aviv (AsiaNews) – A meeting took place on Tuesday, 4 February, of the Bilateral Permanent Working Commission between the Holy See and the State of Israel. The delegations met at the Israeli Ministry for Foreign Affairs. It was their first meeting since the Commission had met in plenary session last 13 December.

The brief joint communiqué confirmed that the two sides have continued their negotiations on the fiscal and property questions pending between Israel and the Catholic Church, and described the atmosphere at the talks as one of “great cordiality.” The negotiators will meet again on 17 March.

At the previous meeting on 13 December, the two delegations had “expressed their determination to accelerate their work in order to achieve further advances in the coming months and to conclude the Agreement as soon as possible.” However the negotiations have continued for almost 15 years. Their purpose is to work out a “comprehensive agreement” on all tax and property matters, which would give the Church in Israel legal and fiscal security.

In practical terms, the Catholic Church wishes to see re-confirmed the historic tax exemptions that she already possessed at the time that Israel came into being, in 1948. Likewise the Church in Israel hopes for the return of some confiscated ecclesiastical properties, for example the church-shrine in Caesarea, which was confiscated in the 1950's and later razed to the ground.

In particular too, the agreement is important for the security of Catholic sacred places owned by the Church, to ensure that any legal disputes concerning them should be decided by the courts, according to the law (i.e. “due process”), and never, as is possible today, by politicians, in purely discretionary fashion.

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