Israel has agreed to reopen talks with the Holy See over church status in the Holy Land, that were stalled since the Olmert government came to power. At a press conference in Rome on Monday, diplomats from the Israeli Foreign Ministry confirmed that that Israel and the Holy See have agreed to hold negotiating sessions of their "Bilateral Permanent Working Commission" in December and in January. The Olmert Government had declined to engage in talks since taking office last spring. Planned sessions had been cancelled and there were fears that the protracted negotiations ( begun on 11 March 1999) required by the 1993 Fundamental Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Israel, might be suspended indefinitely. The hoped-for Agreement is mainly intended to safeguard the Church's ownership of her places of worship, and to confirm the traditional exemption from taxes that have, for centuries, allowed the donations of Catholics throughout the world to be used in their entirety for maintaining churches in the Holy Land and providing services to the poor, education and health facilities.
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