Reopening of Israeli-Vatican Talks Is Possible

JERUSALEM, MAY 7, 2004 ( The superior of the Custody of the Holy Land says that the reopening of talks between Israel and the Holy See would encourage pilgrimages and improve the situation of Christians.

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Franciscan Father Giovanni Battistelli was reacting to Israeli press reports that said talks are under way on such issues as the granting of visas to priests and religious, and the restitution of the Cenacle.

«If the news published by Israeli newspapers is confirmed, of the opening of negotiations between Israel and the Holy See, it would certainly help the renewal of pilgrimages in the Holy Land and improve the conditions of Christians,» Father Battistelli said.

In statements published by the Italian bishops’ news agency SIR, the custodian said: «I hope the negotiations can begin again as soon as possible.»

He also hopes that the «room of the Cenacle,» located on Mount Zion in Jerusalem and surrounded by rabbinical seminaries, will be restored to the Catholic Church.

The Tel Aviv newspaper Maariv quoted a source at the Foreign Affairs Ministry who said the government might start on a new path with the Holy See.

According to the newspaper, U.S. President George W. Bush, who faces an election this year, asked Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last month «to accelerate the transactions.»

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