VATICAN (CWN) -- The Holy See and the Palestinian Authority are negotiating a pact which would offer definitive juridical protection for Catholic entities in the territories now under Palestinian control.

      The Vatican today announced that the negotiations toward that end are being conducted by a "joint commission." The Vatican press office provided no details about the composition of that body.

      The Palestinian Authority maintains a "Bureau of Representation" in Rome, directed by Affix. This bureau-- which functions as the equivalent of an embassy, without holding that title-- was set up in 1994, after the Holy See established formal diplomatic relations with the government of Israel.

      In a similar process, the search for a formal juridical recognition of the Catholic Church in the Palestinian lands follows the establishment of a formal pact with Israel, announced in November 1997, to guarantee the status of Catholic entities in that country.

      In both cases-- in negotiations with the Palestinian Authority as well as with Israel-- the Holy See has found a point of contention regarding the status of the city of Jerusalem. Both governments view the holy city as their capital; the Vatican has pressed consistently for the establishment of an international administration to guarantee free access to Jerusalem for all parties.

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January 16-18, 1998 volume 9, no. 12          DAILY CATHOLIC