Thursday, May 14, 2015

Bilateral Commission of Holy See and State of Palestine Draft Comprehensive Agreement

In 2000, the Vatican reached a preliminary agreement (full text) with the Palestinian Liberation Organization on freedom of religion and the status of Christian holy places.  Yesterday the Bilateral Commission of the Holy See and the State of Palestine issued a joint statement (full text) saying that the text of a Comprehensive Agreement has now been concluded and it will be submitted to the respective authorities for approval before a date for signing in the near future is set.  While the general news media are emphasizing that the agreement's references to the "state of Palestine" are seen as lending weight to Palestinian efforts for recognition as a sovereign nation (New York Times),  different emphasis was displayed in coverage by Catholic News Agency which says that the Vatican has been referring to the "State of Palestine" at least since January 2013.  CNA sets out more detailed information on the substance of the Comprehensive Agreement:
The Vatican-Palestinian agreement recognizes freedom of religion in Palestine, and outlines the rights and obligations of the Church, its agencies, and its personnel in the territory....
The treaty, Msgr. Camilleri [leader of the Vatican delegation to the bilateral commission] said, “backs a resolution of the Palestinian issue and of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians within the Two-State Solution and the resolution of the international community.”
But the bulk of the agreement regards freedom of religion and conscience, as well as the Church's freedom of action, its staff and jurisdiction, legal status, places of worship, social and charitable activity, and use of communications media.
Msgr. Camilleri added that a final chapter of the agreement regards issues of a fiscal and proprietary nature.