Israel Has Not Granted Visas to 86 Priests and Religious

Church Panel Cites «Serious Effects» in Report to Nuncio

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JERUSALEM, MARCH 24, 2003 ( A Catholic Church committee said that Israel has not granted 86 entry visas to priests and religious who want to carry out their work in the Holy Land.

Among those who have not been given visas are three Missionaries of Charity, according to a report sent to the papal nuncio on Saturday by Assumptionist Father Robert J. Fortin, on behalf of the ad hoc Committee.

Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the nuncio, will make the results known to the Israeli government.

The report stated: «A recent survey conducted among the Catholic Churches present in the Holy Land, including the religious congregations of men and women and the various institutions that come under their jurisdiction, reveals that 86 applications for entry visas and residence permits for religious personnel that have been requested but have not yet been granted.»

«They include 36 men and 50 women from 13 countries,» the report said. «The number of such applications is therefore considerable and … is having serious effects on the Catholic Church in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.»

Others face the same fate, the committee said. Barring a change in government policy, the residence visas of 22 Jordanian seminarians in Beit Jala apparently will not be renewed in the coming months, the panel said.

The religious personnel whose cases are pending come from 13 countries, although the great majority, 70, come from Arab countries: Jordan (29), Lebanon (23), Syria (9), Iraq (6) and Egypt (3).

«In the present political context, the Church in the Holy Land understands perfectly well that the state of Israel must take all the security measures it deems necessary to protect its own safety and that of its citizens,» the report said. «However, it finds unjustified the indiscriminate application of these measures to the religious domain.»

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