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Israel promises to fix Church personnel visa problem

The Israeli Embassy to the Holy See has told the missionary news agency AsiaNews that a backlog of paperwork will be cleared "immediately after Easter", to enable Church personnel to obtain visas to live and work in the Holy Land.

AsiaNews has been reporting on longtime Catholic religious personnel being treated like "illegal immigrants" after years of living in Israel.

The Israel embassy statement specifies that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (pictured, with Pope) had called for the formation of an "Inter-Ministerial Commission" to "review criteria, rules and necessary timelines… as well as the whole bureaucratic process" that led to delays in issuing the visas.

The Inter-Ministerial Commission includes representatives from the ministries of Foreign Affairs, the Interior, Justice and Tourism. The Commission had met on various occasions last February. Its conclusions have now been released to various ministries.

The Israeli Ambassador to the Holy See, Oded Ben Hur, assured to AsiaNews that the change in procedure will bear its effects "within 7-10 days". The embassy's note stresses "the great importance" the Israeli government gives to "strengthening good relations between Israel and the Christian world, particularly with Catholics and the Holy See."

Church sources in Jerusalem told AsiaNews that they are optimistic that Israel will now honour the promises it has made repeatedly over the past two years.

Israeli Commission searching for solution regarding visas for religious personnel ( 13/4/04)

Israel promises quick resolution of visa dispute (Catholic World News 13/4/04)
Vatican presses Israel on visa policy (Catholic World News 12/4/04)
More pilgrims celebrate Easter in Holy Land in 2004 (Ecumenical News International 13/4/04)

14 Apr 2004