Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Disputes over sovereignty of Christian holy sites continue?

Israeli President Shimon Peres has suggested that Israel give up sovereignty of Christian holy sites to the Vatican, according to a report on the Israeli Army Radio (Christianity Today, May 5, 2009):
According to the report the President is urging the government to give control of six key sites to the Vatican, including the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the Coenaculum on Mount Zion and the Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem and the Church of the Multiplication on the Kinneret.

However, the plan is reportedly being opposed by the Israeli Interior Minister, Eli Yishai, whose department reportedly refused to sign documents on Sunday handing over sovereignty to the Vatican.

Yishai was quoted as saying, "Every concession like this limits the Israeli government's ability to function as a sovereign government in the area … I am certain that the aim of the pope's visit [from 11-15 May] is not to cause damage, and not to gain sovereignty," reports the Jerusalem Post.

  • Property disputes dog Vatican-Israel ties Associated Press. May 6, 2009:
    Israeli and Vatican lawyers have been disputing ownership of land occupied by a Catholic charity in Jerusalem for 35 years -- just one of many longstanding property issues that form an uneasy backdrop to Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Israel next week.


Catholic News Service reports that Israeli and Vatican officials denied reports that Israeli President Shimon Peres had asked the government to relinquish sovereignty over several holy places as a gesture of good will for Pope Benedict XVI:

"What was published was taken out of context," a spokeswoman for the president's office said May 6. "The Israeli media published it as if the president was asking to give up sovereignty over holy sites, and there is a great distance between that and the reality."

The spokeswoman said Israel already has pledged to the Vatican that it will not confiscate land around six Christian sites for any sort of national development purpose such as the widening of roads. She said Peres had asked the ministries, as a gesture of good will before the pope's May 8-15 trip to the Holy Land, to confirm the pledge and to speed up the negotiations.

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