Israel speeds up talks with Holy See, pointing to accord in time for papal visit
December 18, 2008
After years of delay, Israeli diplomats have accelerated the pace of negotiations with the Holy See, aiming to conclude a long-awaited pact before May 2009, when Pope Benedict XVI will reportedly visit the Holy Land. Meeting in Jerusalem this week, the two sides agreed to schedule further sessions in January, February, and twice in March-- a pace of negotiations that is unprecedented in their 10 years of desultory talks. The sudden rush to reach an accord-- an agreement codifying the juridical and economic rights of Church institutions in Israel, which was promised in the original "fundamental accord" of 1993 that to Vatican recognition of Israel-- seems clearly intended to settle the diplomatic issues before the Pope's visit. The Holy See has not yet confirmed that the Pontiff will travel to Israel. In the past some Vatican diplomats have said that a papal visit would probably not take place until the diplomatic agreement is concluded. The Vatican has made no secret of its impatience with the pace of negotiations in recent years.
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