ROME (JTA) — A leading Roman Catholic official said the Vatican and Israel could finalize an agreement over lingering fiscal issues by the end of this year.
"Conditions exist" to conclude negotiations, the Roman Catholic Custodian of the Holy Land, Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, told the Catholic bishops news agency SIR. "A good part of the points have been resolved," he said.
Pizzaballa made his comments in an interview published Thursday about Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to the Middle East earlier this month.
The Vatican and Israel formalized full diplomatic relations in 1994. But years of negotiations have failed to date to resolve several issues. These include fiscal status and tax issues regarding Church property in Israel as well as visa restrictions on Arab-Christian priests.
"The issue regarding fiscal exemptions is at a good point, but there still needs to be discussion about the issue of the Holy Places, which is something we are discussing at this time," Pizzaballa said.
He said he hoped for a "normalization" of the question of visas "in the short term."