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 CNS Story:

VATICAN-ISRAEL (UPDATED) Dec-17-2007 (450 words) xxxi

Papal nuncio satisfied with progress after Vatican-Israeli meetings

By Judith Sudilovsky
Catholic News Service

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The papal nuncio to Israel said he was satisfied with the outcome of two days of Vatican-Israeli meetings on taxation issues, social security and the status of church personnel, although no final agreement was reached.

"This meeting was not meant to be a conclusion. This is a process of ongoing meetings," said Archbishop Antonio Franco, papal nuncio. "We have to be realistic. These are all difficult issues. Of course it is always a bit frustrating when you don't reach a 100 percent solution, but overall I am satisfied. Since last year there has been considerable progress."

He said he had sensed a "spirit and a position" and a "political will" to find a solution.

"It is not easy for us or for them," he said.

Negotiations on the issues resumed last year after a long hiatus, and the nuncio said that, over time, agreements had been reached on several issues. The issues yet to be resolved are the "most sensitive," he said.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Aryeh Mekel said the Dec. 12 and 13 meetings were intense and no one left the room. Sandwiches were brought into the meeting room for lunch. The director-general of the Foreign Ministry, Aaron Abramovich, headed the Israeli delegation.

"Agreements were not met on the two core issues," Mekel said. "It is complicated but we made some progress. We presented some compromises."

Archbishop Franco said church officials had to be confident.

"We can find a solution and agreement on the most delicate issues. We have to be (hopeful) and pray," he said. "To (reach) a small achievement is also an achievement."

He said the issue that most concerned him was the restriction on multiple-entry visas to church officials from Arab countries.

"We are expecting some progress on this issue this month," said the nuncio.

Archbishop Antonio Veglio, secretary of the Congregation for Eastern Churches and a participant in the meeting, told reporters Dec. 17 that usually the official statements from such meetings "say everything and nothing, but this time it was accurate: Nothing was resolved."

However, he said, "it is good we continue meeting," which is "always better" than arguing.

Archbishop Veglio said he could not go into the specifics of the ongoing negotiations, but "certainly when you speak of God, peace, the progress of peoples, the promotion of women, human rights, you can find a common text. But when you get into details, such as questions about taxes, then differences emerge."

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said the next plenary meeting is planned for May at the Vatican.

- - -

Contributing to this story was Cindy Wooden at the Vatican.


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