Vatican, Israel meet on property issues


ROME (JTA) — Officials from the Vatican and Israel have met and made progress in talks aimed at achieving a bilateral agreement on property matters.

A statement released Thursday said the meeting of the Bilateral Permanent Working Commission between the Holy See and Israel took place Wednesday at the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

The Vatican and Israel established full diplomatic relations nearly 15 years ago, but negotiations have been fitful over issues including tax issues regarding Church property in Israel as well as visa restrictions on Arab-Christian priests.

"The meeting was characterized by great cordiality and a spirit of cooperation," the statement said. "Progress was achieved, and the delegations renewed their joint commitment to conclude the agreement as soon as possible."

The next meeting of the working-level commission will take place April 7 – one month before Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to visit Israel.

Relations between the Vatican and the Jewish world were strained in recent weeks by the pope’s revocation of the excommunication ban on a traditionalist bishop who denies the full extent of the Holocaust.

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