Israel’s Finance Ministry reportedly seized the assets of one or more Catholic Church institutions in Israel over tax issues.
The reports Monday in the Italian media and from a Church news agency did not name the institutions in question, but said the action had been carried out by the Finance Ministry’s chief tax collector, Yehezkel Abrahamoff. Israel is pressing for payment of disputed tax demands.
The Vatican and Israel established full relations in 1994, but negotiations since then have failed to resolve several points, including fiscal status and tax issues regarding Church property in Israel as well as visa restrictions on Arab-Christian priests.
There had been hope that an agreement on these issues was near following Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Israel last month.
In a statement Monday to the Catholic Missionary news agency AsiaNews, Father David Jaeger, the Catholic delegate of the Custody of the Holy Land, called the reported move by Abrahamoff an “extraordinary initiative.”
Jaeger said he hoped that if confirmed, it would “be found to be that of an uninformed individual functionary, and that in the next few hours it will be disowned and overturned by his superiors” in accordance with the treaty obligation to abstain from unilateral actions while negotiations are pending.
This story "Israel Takes Catholic Church Assets in Tax Dispute" was written by JTA.