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Rome Reports

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Shimon Peres to meet with Pope while Israel delays in implementing accord with the Vatican

This accord is known as the "fundamental agreement" calling for an exchange of ambassadors and a series of measures to gradually normalize diplomatic relations. Discussions have been ongoing, although without resolution.

Despite the difficulties, in 1997 the juridical personality of the Church was recognized, although none of the previous agreements were incorporated into Israeli legislation. ;

Current discussions are focusing on fiscal matters regarding the Catholic Church, the restitution and protection of Church property, and especially the safeguarding of holy sites.

Archbishop Antonio FrancoIsrael Nuncio 24/06/2010"This agreement aims to ensure that the Church in Israel can continue its mission and have tax exemptions since it cannot sustain the financial burden. The Church in the Holy Land has no economic resources and is supported by charitable giving from Christians around the world."

The Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Antonio Franco, is one of the main partners in the talks between Israel and the Vatican. He?s optimistic about the future outcome of the dialogue.

The next bilateral meeting between the Vatican and Israel will be on ; December 6th. Israeli sources say that an agreement could be worked out by the end of the year.

Archbishop Antonio FrancoIsrael Nuncio 24/06/2010"Israel is favourable to the presence of the Church there since the Christian presence helps relations between Muslims and Jews – a process which also helps efforts for peace, justice and harmony."

Shimon Peres has met on three other occasions with Benedict XVI. The last time was in 2009 when the Pope visited the Holy Land.

Although the president of Israel has only symbolic power, his meeting with the Pope is likely to favor the negotiation process between the two States for implementation of the accord signed 17 years ago.