Pope Francis has threatened to cancel his first visit to Israel scheduled for May, due to the ongoing labor dispute within the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, the papal ambassador to Israel.
On Tuesday, Foreign Ministry officials employed labor sanctions following the failure of the mediation process with the Finance Ministry regarding the terms of their employment. The announcement of the sanctions was followed by a declaration from the Foreign Ministry's Protocol and Official Guests Bureau by which its officials will not be able to handle the required arrangements for the Pope's expected visit to the State, scheduled for May 25-26.
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They added that they would also not take care of preparations for the arrival of the forward delegation sent on behalf of the Vatican, expected to arrive in Israel next week.
Following the announcement, the papal ambassador told the Foreign Ministry's Chief of State Protocol Talya Lador-Fresher, that the visit is at risk of cancellation if the visit's preparations will not be handled accordingly.
The cancellation may constitute a heavy blow to the Israeli economy, as it would severely harm Israel's tourism industry, damage relations with the Christian churches and possibly cause hurt to Israel's international image, considering that it is unclear when the Pope will find the time to schedule another visit.
The Pope's anticipated arrival to the Holy Land would mark his first visit to the country since becoming Pontiff and commemorates the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI's visit to Jerusalem in 1964.