Israel: Christians condemned to clandestinity
In spite of the promises made to the Vatican up to now, Israel has still not granted a legal status which would guarantee most notably, Christian property and the existence of Christian communities. After protests by diplomats, the situation was settled for the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem, whose survival was threatened by refusal of visas for its students.
It is more than ten years now that the bipartisan commission, set up by the Vatican and the State of Israel, in order to clarify the legal status of Christian communities, has met with no result whatsoever By recognizing Israel, we hoped to gain goodwill on the part of Israel, but clearly we have been incredibly naïve, noted a religious leader in Jerusalem.
Fr. David Jaeger, a Franciscan of Jewish origin, belongs to the bipartisan commission. He feels bitter, and is asking the international community to exert pressure on the Israeli authorities: The situation here is really amazing, the problem is very serious indeed, and the promises made by top ranking government officials have not been kept so far, he told the press agency AsiaNews, reported by Apic. This religious, spokesman for the Franciscan Custody in the Holy Land, denounces the grave problems provoked by the persistent restrictions, imposed by the Israeli authorities on the issuing of entry visas, and the renewal of residence permits to Church personnel and religious working in Israel
This situation, already described a year ago in a report compiled by the ad hoc Commission, instituted by the Assembly of Ordinaries of the Holy Land, now affects several dozen priests and religious, who are living in conditions of clandestinity, even though they have been present for years in Israel or the Occupied Territories.
This is the first time in 50 years that the Israeli government has refused the renewal of visas to religious and seminarians. To this day, appeals by Catholic Church leaders to the Israeli authorities have been futile, as the latter have made only vague promises, says Fr. Jaeger.
In the face of difficulties which local Christians must confront, there is never a word from those here who should be consoling them; they do not understand the silence of the Vatican representative on the spot Why is there no denunciation on the part of the nuncio, never a strong word, it is shocking, are the words of several people. One can gather from many of the Christian leaders in Jerusalem, that a feeling of sadness and frustration is now dominating the local Christians, who feel abandoned.