Jerusalem (Agenzia Fides) - On December 13th, 2022, the Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land (ACOHL) organized a conference for the launching of two new offices: the Safeguarding Office & the Professional Legal Office, which aim to provide support and advice to the Catholic Church in the Holy Land. The conference, which included opening speeches by His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, and Mgr Adolfo Tito Yllana, Apostolic Nuncio of the Holy Land, was meant to present the purpose of these offices to the religious congregations and institutes of the Holy Land. Speakers included Ms. Razan Kafiety, paralegal assistant of the Professional Legal Office, who presented the Legal Office and its purpose; Mr. Zaki Sahlia, a lawyer specialized in property, civil and commercial law, who specified the legal issues this Office would deal with; and Mrs. Natalie Baddour, Safeguarding specialist of the ACOHL, who gave an overview of the Safeguarding Office and its objectives.
The Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Holy See and the State of Israel on December 29-30, 1993 enabled the establishment of stable embassy-level diplomatic relations between the Vatican and the Jewish State. The agreement provided for a subsequent agreement to regulate "property, economic and fiscal problems concerning the Catholic Church in general or Catholic institutions in Israel". This agreement had to be concluded by the bilateral contact bodies and had to find "mutually acceptable solutions to open, unresolved or contentious problems related to economic and fiscal issues affecting the Catholic Church in general or Catholic institutions or communities in particular". Twenty-nine years later, however, negotiations in the bilateral permanent working commission between the Holy See and the State of Israel have still not resulted in an agreement on financial, tax and property issues. In fact, litigation over church property has intensified in recent years, particularly over property claimed by the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
On Monday December 12, the Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land (AOCTS) issued a statement expressing its "concerns about the political and social life of our communities". The statement expressed hope that the new government would bring "political stability," while warning of the progressive deterioration of the overall social and political situation in the Holy Land and the increasing disadvantages faced by Arab communities in Israel. In their statement, the Catholic bishops of the Holy Land also denounced the numerous violent deaths that have occurred in Palestine and the occupied territories in recent months, largely as a result of operations and raids by the Israeli army. "This year," say the Catholic bishops of the Holy Land, "we have witnessed an upsurge in violence, with the highest Palestinian death toll in more than twenty years". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 14/12/2022)