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Rome Reports

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Holy See and Israel: Final Agreement on the Way?

RAYMOND COHEN Hebrew University, Professor (Jerusalem) "What the negotiations are about is bringing up to date the rights and privileges of the Holy See, or the Church in Israel, that were established in the 19th Century by the Ottoman Empire.â? AMNON RAMON Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies "Still today there are many problems with taxes, status, judicial status of Churches, so this is something that is very urgent.â? This and other topics were discussed during a forum organized by the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. Negotiations on the legal status of the Church began back in 1999. But for years, there was little progress. Raymond Cohen says, part of that was due to the violence in the country.   RAYMOND COHEN Hebrew University, Professor (Jerusalem) "In Jerusalem, they had a lot of things on their minds. Buses were blowing up. I love going to the market, but it was bombed nine times, so we didn't have a whole lot of attention for negotiations, but since 2006, the negotiations have made very good progress.â? Christians are of course a small minority in Israel. Some predict there are roughly 170,000 Arab Catholics in the country. But Cohen says the total number of Catholics is actually much higher. There are probably between 300,000 and 400,000, since the state has many Christian immigrants. RAYMOND COHEN Hebrew University, Professor (Jerusalem) "There are hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers from the Philippines and India and also Hebrew speaking Catholic speaking community which is not really known about.â? Even though these negotiations have been going on for 13 years, it seems like something could be finalized relatively soon. Another official meeting between both states will be held on December 2012 in Israel. KLH AA VM -PR