Papal Preparation Aids Vatican-Israeli Relations

Formal Negotiations Not Expected to Conclude

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JERUSALEM, APRIL 8, 2009 ( Preparation for Benedict XVI’s Holy Land visit is advancing the relationship between the Holy See and Israel, though formal agreements are still pending, notes the Franciscan custodians Web site.

The Franciscan Custodians of the Holy Land, a group that is helping plan the Pope’s May 8-15 visit, published online an article by Marie Armelle Beaulieu, which analyzed the current atmosphere in Jerusalem.

The article noted that although this Papal trip will not conclude the pending agreements between the Holy See and Israel, the friendly atmosphere the visit has generated is serving to advance towards that objective.
The agreements currently being negotiated, within a bilateral commission of Israeli and Vatican negotiators, will govern the legal status of the Catholic Church in that country. This follows the Fundamental Agreement, signed in 1993, which established the diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel.
In recent months, the committee’s meetings have made such progress that it was believed the negotiations might be concluded on the occasion of the Papal visit.
Father David Jaeger, an Israeli Franciscan and expert in relations between the Church and the State of Israel, stated, «there is no relation between the works of the bilateral commission and the Holy Father’s pilgrimage, with the exception, of course, of the ‘good atmosphere,’ as the latter has made possible the intensification of negotiations.»

He continued, «In any event, we must recall that the Holy Father is preparing to make a pilgrimage, that is, a spiritual journey to pray in the holy places of revelation and to visit the Christian community; he will also have important meetings with the civil authorities of the states and territories that are found today in the holy places, and of which believers form part as citizens, namely: the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the State of Israel and the Palestinian Territories.»
The article stated that there is no hope that these agreements will be signed now, «but yes» that the signing is «not too far off.»
At present the negotiators of the Holy See and Israel are studying the «Economic Agreement,» with which the fiscal regime and the Church’s properties will be regulated.
However, the article noted, 15 years after the inauguration of the Israel-Holy See Fundamental Agreement on March 10, 1994, and 10 years after the Agreement on the Legal Personality of the Church (February 3, 1999), the signed and ratified treaties have yet to be included in the juridical order by the Israeli Parliament. Therefore, it clarified, they cannot be applied by the courts, which seriously limits them.
The journalist explained that when the Holy See established diplomatic relations with the State of Israel in 1993, as a gesture of good will, Pope John Paul II opted for a Fundamental Treaty, and left the negotiation of the details of the issues for later.

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