Israel denies sovereignty deal with Vatican on holy site

Photo ~ Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men pray during a protest against Pope Francis' upcoming visit on May 12, 2014, in the Old City

Vatican City (AFP) - Israel said it had "no intention" of giving the Vatican sovereignty over a sensitive holy site in Jerusalem, following protests by ultra-Orthodox Jews ahead of Pope Francis's visit this month.

"Contrary to rumours in Israel, there is no intention to transfer to the Vatican sovereignty or ownership on the Tomb of David or the Cenacle," Israel's ambassador to the Vatican, Zion Evrony, said in a speech obtained on Wednesday.

Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews on Monday held a protest near the site, demanding that Israel retain sovereignty. They are also planning another demonstration on May 22 -- just three days before Pope Francis arrives.