Despite promises from the government, priests and religious who serve or should serve in Israel continue to face many obstacles in obtaining visas that allow them to remain legally in the country.
Father David Maria Jaeger, spokesman for the Franciscans who govern the holy sites in Jerusalem and the surrounding area, said this week, “The delays and denials cause enormous problems in ministry and in the functioning of the Church.”
“The real problem is that Israel does not have any norms for the issuing of entry and residency visas, beside what the official on duty tells you that day,” Father Jaeger said. “Instead of this there ought to be norms that allow the Church to reasonably plan something achievable.”
“In the basic agreement signed with the Holy See in 1993, one of the tenets was the right of the Church to dispatch its own personnel in her own institutions,” he recalled. The norms governing this right were to have been nailed down in March of 1994, “but up to now that has not taken place,” he added.
Father Jaeger pointed out that many priests have only been granted a one-year visa that allows only one entry. “If they have to leave the country for some reason they cannot re-enter, unless they apply again,” he said.