With the "joint communique" released at the end of its work, yesterday, April 16, at the office of the Israeli foreign ministry, the Bilateral Permanent Working Commission of the Holy See and the state of Israel announced that it will hold its next plenary session on May 28, at the Vatican.
"Plenary" is the name given to the session presided over by the highest levels (just beneath the ministerial level) of the respective foreign dicasteries and also including other officials, in addition to those who take part in the "working" sessions that are held in the meantime, between one plenary session and the other.
The plenary sessions have been resumed only since May 21, 2007, after a five year interval (since March 12, 2002 ), and it seems that the two parties intend to hold them every six months, as they have done since the first session of this new series.
As on other occasions, the communique for the current "working" meeting says that it was characterised by "an atmosphere of great cordiality" (which a participant who spoke with AsiaNews fully confirmed) and that, in such an atmosphere, the delegations "renewed their shared determination to speed up their work in order to conclude the Agreement as soon as possible".
The desired Agreement, previously requested by the Fundamental Agreement of December 30, 1993, should above all reconfirm the historical tax exemptions for the Church, and effect the restitution to the Church of some ecclesiastical properties lost over the years, in particular, among others, the church-shrine of Caesarea Maritima (in addition to, naturally, the holy Cenacle).
The announcement of the date of the upcoming plenary session, says one expert on Church-state relations in Israel, interviewed by AsiaNews, would be a good sign of the seriousness of the negotiations, and could be seen as an indication that the delegations have developed relationships of "mutual trust", and methods of "straightforward collaboration aimed at reaching a common goal".
Arieh Cohen writes for Asia News and appears here with permission.