Vatican delegations meet with Palestinians, Israelis, in separate negotiations

.- Talks appear to be moving forward for the Vatican in Palestine and Israel. Vatican delegations met with representatives this week to discuss the Church's status in each of the two contentious Middle Eastern areas.

Talks between the Holy See and the Palestinian Liberation Organization took place in Ramallah on Dec. 7. According to the Holy See's Press Office, the two sides  are working to reach "a comprehensive international agreement" to govern the Church’s operations in the Palestinian territories.

The meeting took place in a "cordial atmosphere" and both delegations agreed to establish a working group to bring about such an agreement, the Vatican said.

Some of the same Vatican officials crossed the heated border into Israel to take part in a plenary meeting with the representatives from Israel's foreign affairs ministry on Dec. 9.

The ongoing meetings are seeking to negotiate the details of an accord to establish the legal and economic status of Church properties and workers in the Holy Land. Delegations have met on and off since 1993 and the official joint communique issued this week reported a "good and open atmosphere."

The meeting started with talk of the telegram sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The telegram conveyed assurances of Pope Benedict XVI's prayer and solidarity following devastating fires in forests around Israel's Mt. Carmel that took more than 40 lives.

The next working meeting with the Israeli delegation is scheduled for Feb. 3, 2011.

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