U.S. Prelate Criticizes Israeli Visa Denials

Says They Interfere with Work of Jerusalem Patriarchate

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WASHINGTON, D.C., JAN. 21, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Israel’s practice of denying entry visas and work permits for Catholic clergy, religious and lay people appears to be an infringement on religious liberty, a U.S. bishop says.

In a letter to the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Bishop John Ricard, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Policy, said that the denial of entry visas and work permits for clergy and seminarians affiliated with the Latin-rite Patriarchate of Jerusalem violates the spirit of a 1993 agreement between Israel and the Holy See.

«Extensive restrictions of this sort would appear to amount to a practical infringement of religious liberty,» Bishop Ricard told Ambassador Daniel Ayalon.

«Two-thirds of the patriarchate’s seminarians come from outside Israel,» he stated. «To prevent their study at the patriarchal seminary would prevent the normal functioning of one of the patriarchate’s principal institutions.»

Bishop Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee said the Israeli policy has also unacceptably affected other institutions.

«The exclusion of clergy, Church workers and seminary students has serious adverse affects on the Church in Israel and the Palestinian Territories,» he said.

The letter from Bishop Ricard came in response to a statement made last month by the patriarch concerning the problems the Church was experiencing.

The territory of the Latin patriarchate encompasses Israel, the Palestinian Autonomous Territories, Jordan and Cyprus.

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