News that "[t]he Israeli Ministry of Interior is refusing entry visas to priests and members of religious orders and is also reducing their period of stay in the Holy Land," including "not only figures from the Arab world, but also well-known personalities and biblical experts from Europe and Africa" — Israel restricts visas for priests and religious. What say you, Catholic Friends of Israel?The cited article fasserts that "the return of the Fundamentalist party Shas to control of the powerful Interior Ministry in the present Israeli government has brought with it renewed trouble for clergymen and members of religious orders." As far as approaching this matter, I'm personally inclined to agree with Fr. Jaeger's approach mentioned in the same article:
... In seeking to persuade the State to take back control of visa policy from the fundamentalists, Church officials can rely on the Fundamental Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Israel (1993). There, in Article 3, Paragraph 2, the State recognises the right of the Church to "deploy" its own personnel to Israel.I think any nation has the right to regulate the entree of foreign parties (religious or otherwise) for reasons of security, and this right should be granted to Israel just as it is to any other nation. Obviously, this may also be subject to abuse. (Not knowing the particulars of the cases referred to in the article, I won't venture an opinion).
Reached by AsiaNews, the noted expert on Church-State relations in Israel, Franciscan Father David-Maria A. Jaeger, who was part of the bilateral team that wrote the Agreement, confirmed that this was understood on both sides as being the meaning of that treaty provision, and the precise reason for the otherwise unusual use of the word "deploy" in reference to Church personnel.
“Of course - he adds - later in that text, the Church recognises the right of State to ensure the safety of its people, and that this means, in the present context, that the State can in good faith decline to permit the entry of individuals who might pose a risk to public safety, but that the State may not otherwise substitute its judgement for that of the Church with regard to the personnel the Church may wish to 'deploy" from anywhere in the world to its own institutions, for its own purposes, in Israel”.
Father Jaeger has clarified that he cannot comment on the facts and violations here reported. But that as jurist he says he is “confident that the key to resolving any difficulties in the matter lies in the 1993 Fundamental Agreement”.
I completely understand why this is a point of contention between the Church and Israel; at the same time, I don't think that clergy, simply by virtue of their being religious, are automatically exempt from such regulation.
(Thanks to The Western Confucian for the query and the link to our site!)