Pope's Talk of Treaty With Israel Seen as Significant

Signals That ’93 Agreement Is Key to Catholic-Jewish Ties, Say Sources

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ROME, SEPT. 19, 2005 (Zenit.org</a>).- The Church in Israel welcomed the references Benedict XVI made to the treaties and negotiations between the Holy See and Israel in his address to the country’s chief rabbis last week.

At last Thursday’s meeting at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, the Pope said he was eager to see the fulfillment of the 1993 Fundamental Agreement between the Holy See and the state of Israel.

An AsiaNews source close to both sides said that the Holy Father’s explicit reference to the agreement and the need to see it “fulfilled,” as well as to the further talks now under way, is highly significant.

The papal reference conveyed the message that the agreement and its completion are essential to the relationship between the Church and the Jewish people, according to AsiaNews, an agency of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions.

This means, among other things, that it is essential that Israel be faithful to its treaty obligations vis-à-vis the Holy See and the Catholic Church, including the obligation to negotiate in good faith in order to reach the much-delayed agreement on the fiscal status of the Church and Church property.

Benedict XVI’s speech came just exactly one week before the delegations of the Holy See and Israel are due to meet again.

Threefold purpose

Experts contacted by AsiaNews are optimistic. They hope for a rapid resumption of purposeful and substantive talks that will leave behind the recent polemics, and that will result, before too long, in the necessary agreement.

The purpose of these negotiations, these experts said, is threefold.

— first, to enumerate and guarantee the tax rights and exemptions the Church already enjoyed at the time of the creation of the state of Israel;

— second, to guarantee that the Church can always have recourse to Israeli courts to protect its property, and

— third, to obtain the restitution of certain ecclesiastical properties that were lost through the years, such as the church in Caesarea that was confiscated in the 1950s and later destroyed.

The context of the meeting with Israel’s chief rabbis at Castel Gandolfo was the 40th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on the Relation of the Church to non-Christian religions, “Nostra Aetate.”

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