Thursday, December 10, 2009

Israel, Vatican to hold talks over Church property

(AFP) JERUSALEM — A top Israeli official was headed to the Vatican on Wednesday for a new round of talks on long-standing disputes over Church property in the Holy Land and other issues that have marred ties.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon will head an Israeli delegation at the plenary meeting of the joint economic commission starting Thursday, according to a ministry statement, which sounded an upbeat note despite the continuing, deep-rooted disagreements.

The negotiations "are in their final stages after reaching significant understandings in recent months," mainly on issues of taxation and the legal status of Vatican personnel, it said.

But senior officials told AFP that, despite much agreement between the two sides, differences remain over the status of more than 100 Church properties in Israel, occupied east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

In the case of six sites in Jerusalem and the Galilee area, Israel rejects demands that the Church be granted full control of its property, and wishes to maintain a right to expropriate sections of the sites for future public infrastructure works.

"We will insist on our right to expropriate" Vatican property in case the need arises, the statement said.

A senior official involved in the talks said "the disagreement is over the future of the land surrounding the sites and what the state could do with them... The state wants to be allowed to use it for infrastructure work."

The most contentious property is the Cenacle, which Christians believe to be the site of the Last Supper and which is located on the second floor of the ancient Mount Zion building that houses King David's tomb.

"Everything that has to do with Jerusalem and Mount Zion will remain under full Israeli sovereignty. The issue is not on the table," the official said.

Another source of discord is the status of the Hospice of the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul, which cares for Palestinians with severe physical and mental handicaps.

Israeli developers have long been interested in the sprawling site, which sits on prime real estate just outside the Christian quarter walls of the Old City.

Under a bilateral agreement signed in 1993, which marked a historic rapprochement between Israel and the Vatican, a joint commission was set up to resolve the financial and real estate issues, notably in territory occupied by the Jewish state after 1967.

Negotiations have sputtered ever since they resumed in 2004 after a 10-year hiatus.

1 comment:

Fr. Erik Richtsteig said...


Please email me when you get a chance.