VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 14, 2004 ( Israel's interior minister gave the Holy See assurances of having given instructions for a solution to the problem of priests and religious seeking entrance visas to his country.

Interior Minister Avraham Poraz met with John Paul II today after addressing with papal aides some of the issues being negotiated by the Holy See and the Israeli government.

During the meetings, questions touched on the issuing of visas to priests and religious, and talks between the Holy See and Israel on fiscal questions of ecclesiastical institutions in that country, according to the Vatican press office.

Vatican press office director Joaquín Navarro Valls in a statement said that in regard to "the issue of entrance visas to Israel for religious personnel of the Catholic Church," the minister "gave assurances of having given the necessary instructions for a satisfactory solution."

In past months, Israeli authorities denied entry visas, in particular, to priests or religious from Arab countries. Some ecclesiastics also had problems renewing their residence visas in Israel.

Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic delegate in Jerusalem, said today that "now almost all the religious personnel have received the visa."

In statements to the Italian newspaper Avvenire, Archbishop Sambi added, however, that mechanisms are necessary "to avoid being subjected to a gigantic labyrinth every year when permits must be renewed. Written norms are needed that introduce a certain automatism."

The Israeli and Vatican delegations also discussed "the progress of negotiations under way in Jerusalem for the realization of an agreement that defines the fiscal questions of ecclesiastical institutions in Israel."

The Israeli laws, confirmed by the Israeli Supreme Court, recognize the fiscal exemption of ecclesiastical properties. However, in December 2002, while negotiations were taking place between Israel and the Vatican, the government decided on a drastic reduction of this fiscal exemption.

After a year of no official contacts between the Holy See and the Israeli government, representatives of both sides met Sept. 6-9 in Jerusalem to review aspects of the application of the 1993 Fundamental Agreement.

The papal delegate said there would be more meetings between the Israeli and Vatican delegations to be able to write a final document of agreement.

Abraham Poraz was accompanied at the meeting by Oded Ben-Hur, Israel's ambassador to the Holy See, and by Paltiel Varon, an adviser, and Cesare Marjeh, director of Israel's Department for Relations with Christians.

For his part, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano was assisted at the meeting by Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, secretary for relations with states, and by Monsignors Franco Coppola and Joseph Murphy, both officials of the Secretariat of State.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not addressed at the meeting as the Holy See already made known its position on Mideast peace during the recent visit of Israel's head of state and foreign minister to the Vatican.

Abraham Poraz is a co-founder of the Shinui Party, the second party of the government coalition.