Israel won't surrender Christian sites to Vatican

Thursday, December 10, 2009 |  Israel Today Staff

A delegation headed by Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon departed for the Vatican on Wednesday to let the Catholic Church know it will not receive ownership of dozens of Christian holy sites throughout Israel and the Palestinian-ruled territories.

The Vatican has been demanding for decades that Israel surrender ownership of the holy sites, exempt the church of taxes on those properties, and waive its right to ever expropriate the land on which they sit. During that time, the Vatican has refused to pay taxes on the properties it does own in Israel.

One of the main sites being demanded by the Vatican is the traditional location of Jesus' Last Supper on Mount Zion just outside the present-day walls of the Old City.

Ayalon told reporters that Israel will not relinquish ownership of the room of the Last Supper or any of the other 28 holy sites under its direct sovereignty, but is willing to make some concessions on taxes and to waive its right to nationalize church property.

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