Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin Squashes Vatican Rumors on Cenacle Control… Almost

In true "Elkin style", Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Zeev Elkin, put to rest alarming rumors of the transfer of the Tomb of King David to the Vatican which appeared in the Israeli Orthodox/Hareidi newspaper Hamodia on July 11th:

"YERUSHALAYIM - Israel has secretly informed the pope and senior Vatican officials that it is ready to reach a deal according to which it will transfer sovereignty of Kever David on Har Tzion to the Vatican, along with six Christian sites around the country. In exchange, Israel will receive permission to nationalize land that is under Christian control on the shores of the Kinneret."

Today, The National Religious publication, Arutz 7, reported that Elkin knows of no such deal involving King David's Tomb:

"Elkin added that he is unaware of any offer, not even on the part of the Vatican, to receive control of King David’s Tomb in exchange for lands owned by the Vatican around the Kinneret. Rumors of such an offer have recently appeared in hareidi-religious publications."

Kudos to Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister, Zeev Elkin, for taking a strong stand and addressing public concerns regarding rumors of a property transfer. However, further explanation is needed, because both the Hamodia and Arutz 7 reports failed to address the issue of Catholic worship above the Tomb of King David which is reportedly to take place under Franciscan control according to an official Press release published last month.

The issue of Catholic Mass above King David's Tomb has not been addressed

Perhaps the most promising, or possibly misunderstood, claim by Elkin in the A7 report is as follows:

"Elkin said that there is a longstanding economic agreement between the Vatican and Israel. This agreement relates to taxes, fees, and individual claims on Vatican property and while there have been demands to include the “Last Supper” room as part of it, the Foreign Ministry has made it clear that control of the site will not be handed to the Vatican whatsoever."

JewishIsrael would like further clarification, because official Vatican sources as well as the mainstream Israeli  and Italian press are claiming otherwise vis a vis "administrative control", and "Catholic worship" above King David's Tomb:

"The Cenacle, the building on Mt. Zion which houses the “Upper Room” where Jesus and his disciples held the Last Supper will once again be open for Catholic worship, it has been announced by spokesmen for the Vatican, the Israeli government and the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. The agreement, which is part of overall negotiations over the use of land owned by the church in Israel allows for Franciscan administrative control of the site, while ownership will remain with Israel, according to Fr. Peter Vasko, president of the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land (FFHL).” ---PR WEB –Press release by The Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, June 8, 2013

“A structure on Mt. Zion known as the Cenacle, where the Last Supper is believed to have taken place, will become open to Catholic worship once again, Italian newspaper La Stampa reported. The site will be administered by the Franciscan order but ownership will remain with Israel. The structure, also known as the “Upper Room,” rests above what’s believed to be King David’s Tomb, although many archaeologists differ on whether the Jewish king was actually buried there.” --- Times of Israel, June 6, 2013

“The Cenacle on Mount Zion where, according to Christian tradition, the Last Supper was held, will become a Catholic place of worship once again.” --- La Stampa-Vatican Insider, May 28 2013

“Over the past few years, the Vatican and Israeli delegations have been working on a solution that involves ownership of the Cenacle, the two small rooms adjacent to it and the staircase providing access to it, be transferred to the Custody of the Holy Land. The Israeli state would maintain ownership of the convent that was built by the Franciscans (trying to ensure spaces are not given to new tenants other than the already existing ones) and the area surrounding the Tomb of David, beneath the Cenacle. This, however, may not be the final solution the Vatican has been hoping for. Peres’ words on the Cenacle and the possibility of allowing Christians celebrate mass there, seem to indicate this. Israel would grant the Pope special authority over the Cenacle, indicating that the ownership of one of the most important holy sites in Christianity will not be returned to the Christians.” --- La Stampa-Vatican Insider, April 30, 2013

"A historical agreement has been signed between Israel and the Vatican, ending a 20 year dispute. Israel has granted the pope an official seat in the room where the Last Supper is believed to have taken place, on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. Israel did not give up its control over the room, as the Vatican had demanded, but Israel did decide to allow Vatican representatives a special modicum of control over the site." --- Israel Hayom,January 30, 2013

Vatican leaks

If as Elkin and the Foreign Ministry claim that, control of the site [of "the Last Supper"] will not be handed to the Vatican whatsoever", then Israeli authorities should be furious over the  constant diplomatic provocations and leaks by Vatican Radio, Vatican correspondents and analysts in Rome, and those representing the Vatican in the Holy Land. 

Although it's known that the Vatican is anxious to own and control the Cenacle shrine, mouthpieces for Rome have been feeding rumors about drafts and deals since 2005.  At that time this writer challenged David Chappell, then deputy managing editor of the Times of London, over his paper's coverage of a reported draft agreement over the "Last Supper Room".  Chapell's response cited his papers' sources as having been "in the Vatican" and "on the papal plane and in the papal entourage". In addition he cited by name "an experienced Vatican correspondent" from a respected Rome newspaper.

So if the Vatican and Israel are indeed a hairsbreadth away from an historical agreement, and if, according to sources within the Vatican, "the Cenacle is the key to reaching an agreement" then somebody could be lying. We hope it's not those in Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

If the Vatican is putting this type of "undiplomatic" pressure on the Jewish state over a non-negotiable piece of property, then it's high time the Israeli government take Mount Zion off the agenda altogether and take a time-out to reassess the conditions of these bi-lateral discussions.

We don’t know what's in the little box that Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin gave Pope Francis last month during high-level negotiations with Vatican officials. We hope that it was not the keys to control over the Upper Room (Cenacle), nor rights for Christian worship there.


JewishIsrael will continue to seek clarification on this issue.


We suggest our readership contact the Deputy Foreign Minister Elkin

and the Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to express their concerns


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