Israel wants more Catholic tourists
In a bid to increase Catholic tourism to the Holy Land, Israeli tourism minister, Isaac Herzog, has proposed that the annual international Catholic bishops synod be hosted in Israel.
Haaretz reports that Minister Herzog proposed the idea at a meeting late last week with the Vatican ambassador to Israel, Archbishop Antonio Franco.
The annual bishops synod normally takes place in Rome and involves more than 1,000 bishops from all parts of the world.
The Minister said that such a development would have historic significance and could result in a record increase in Christian tourism to Israel.
"Undoubtedly this would have positive results for the relations between the State of Israel and the Christian communities here," Mr Herzog added.
During their meeting, the two discussed the necessary preparations for the planned visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Israel in 2007, and how to strengthen the ties and cooperation between the Ministry of Tourism and the Vatican.
Mr Herzog asked the ambassador for his help in preventing the recurrence of incidents in which visiting heads of Christian tours criticised Israel, a phenomenon common during the intifada.
The ambassador pledged to make an effort to increase the number of Catholic tourists visiting Israel, and asked for Mr Herzog's assistance in furthering a pending bilateral administrative-economic agreement.
In recent years, the number of Christian tourists visiting Israel has increased. According to Israel's Tourism Ministry data, in 2005 a total of 800,000 Christian tourists visited Israel and comprised 40 percent of all visitors during that year.
The papal visit in 2007 is expected to bring a massive influx of Catholic tourists to Israel.
Herzog meets Vatican envoy in effort to boost Catholic tourism (Haaretz 19/6/06)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Israel Ministry of Tourism
Israel Ministry of Tourism, US Website
Vatican in deal with Israel to look after Last Supper room (CathNews 14/10/05)
Tourism Minister Eyes Papal Visit in 2007 (Israel National News 18/6/06)
Israel invites Vatican to hold its annual World Bishops` Conference in Holy Land (Travel Daily News 19/6/06)
20 Jun 2006