Talks Resumed Between Holy See and Israel

Negotiations Over 1993 Agreement to Continue

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JERUSALEM, JULY 6, 2004 ( After almost a year hiatus, talks resumed between Israel and the Holy See on implementing the Fundamental Agreement that regulates their relations.

The Vatican delegation to Monday’s meeting was headed by Monsignor Gianfranco Gallone, secretary of the apostolic nunciature in Israel, and the Israeli delegation by Gadi Golan, head of the Religious Affairs Department of the Foreign Ministry.

The Fundamental Agreement, signed by both sides in December 1993, was a milestone, initiating stable diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the state of Israel.

Last August, Israel withdrew its delegation from the negotiations taking place at the time to come to a final agreement on certain points.

Father David Jaeger, spokesman of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, and consultant of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, told Vatican Radio that the meeting took place in «a very cordial atmosphere.»

Yet, the Vatican wants the Israeli delegation to «have the necessary powers to negotiate, otherwise no negotiation will be able to make progress,» Father Jaeger added.

According to the priest, the negotiations are concerned with three fundamental points.

«The first,» he said, «is the Church’s tax status — rights and duties in regard to taxes; in particular, the consolidation of the exemptions that the Church has always had under all the preceding states and in virtue of international treaties.»

The second concerns the restitution «of some ecclesiastical properties expropriated or lost over the years.»

The third point is «the state’s participation in the support of the social and educational endeavors of the Church, which it does not carry out for itself, but for the local population.»

The negotiations will continue Sept. 6-9, Father Jaeger said. The Franciscan said he hopes that by that date «both delegations will have the powers to negotiate.»

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