Speaking to CNA about the continuing negotiations between the Holy See and the State of Israel which have been attempting to decide the official status of the Church in the Middle Eastern State since 1993, Franciscan Fr. David-Maria Jaeger said that progress is "definitely" being made. While the going might be slow, he said, both sides are working hard to reach conclusions.
With the signing of the Fundamental Agreement in 1993, negotiations began between the Vatican and Israel on measures to protect the Church's patrimony in the Holy Land. The meetings have also focused on judicial, fiscal and economic policy for the Church in the area and issues related to the clergy and religious who work there.
Fr. Jaeger is involved in the negotiations as a legal adviser to the Holy See's delegation.
"The agreement is definitely possible and both sides are working very hard to achieve the agreement," Fr. Jaeger told CNA, saying that he has detected wholehearted goodwill and determination from the Israeli delegation for reaching an accord.
"In any case," he explained, "it has to take a little time because this is technically a very complicated agreement." He referred to the fact that many individually complex subjects are dealt with in the negotiations, and likened some of the work to the creation of tax legislation. The work, he said, "requires patience and attention and skill."
But, he commented, "definitely there is movement, maybe slower than we thought it would be all those years ago, but there is definitely movement and an attentive reader of the joint communiques must know that when the communique says 'progress' it's never an empty, ritualistic word in that context. It is very precisely made.
"There is progress," Fr. Jaeger insisted.
After the most recent plenary meeting between the two sides on June 15, the official communique reported that they "welcomed the progress accomplished by the 'Working Level' Commission since the previous Plenary."
Asked to provide an idea of where discussions are at now, Fr. Jaeger clarified that "it is the policy of the commission never to discuss contents.
"Even if it might seem like the negotiators are agreed on a particular topic," he noted, "they are not really agreed because nothing is really agreed until everything is agreed."