Pope Benedict XVI
Photo: Dudu Azulay
Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov plans to announce Sunday during the weekly government meeting that the NIS 43 million ($10.1 million) budget set aside for Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Israel has not yet been put to use, and that this could wreak havoc on the tour scheduled to take May 11.
The minister also warns that construction of infrastructure and renovations have not been completed on the holy sites the pope plans on visiting.
Misezhnikov says the main reason for the delay is that the funds have not been transferred to the government ministries and organizations involved in preparing the holy tour. He claims the Finance Ministry's Budget Division is to blame.
He also says that a number of legal points of contention between Israel and the Vatican have not been smoothed over, an issue under the supervision of the Justice Ministry.
Other areas necessitating further preparation include invitations to the various church representatives that will be attending the pope's mass, under the Interior Ministry's jurisdiction, and the papal entourage's security checks upon returning from the Palestinian territories, for which the police are responsible.
The claims made Saturday by the tourism minister, who has been made responsible for organizing the holy visit, are all the more grave considering the goals Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government has assigned to the occasion.
The goals include improvement of Israel's public and foreign relations, encouragement of incoming tourism, and the improvement of relations with the Christian public as well as Israel's overall status in the world.