Vatican, Czech agreement moves closer to ratification, seeks to reform religious freedom laws, solve questions of siezed Catholic property

.- The Vatican has announced that Cyril Svoboda, foreign minister of the Czech Republic, visited with Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, the Holy See's secretary for Relations with States earlier today. In the brief meeting, the two expressed hope that an agreement regulating mutual relations between the Czech Republic and the Holy See, which has not yet been ratified, might soon come to fruition. "In the course of the meeting," read a declaration on the meeting from Vatican Press Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls, "discussions focussed on bilateral relations between the Holy See and the Czech Republic, in particular on the agreement regulating mutual relations, signed in Prague on July 25, 2002, but not yet ratified.

For his part, Archbishop Lajolo expressed his hope that difficulties hindering the ratification on the Czech side can be overcome, and said that the Vatican Secretariat of State also favored such a process.

Navarro Valls said that, "Among other subjects discussed were certain aspects of plans for a law reforming religious freedom, and proposals for a solution of the question of Catholic Church property confiscated at the time of the communist regime. To this end, it was agreed that it would be appropriate to constitute a joint commission with a fixed-term mandate."

"The conversation", he said, "also ranged over other themes of current international importance, in particular the process of consolidating and enlarging the European Union. ... Other themes were: the Middle East, and collaboration in international organizations with reference to some important ethical questions."

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