In an unprecedented move on Sunday, the heads of Jerusalem’s holy churches announced that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is closing its doors for the first time in Israel’s history due to the Israeli authorities’ “systematic campaign against the Churches and the Christian community in the Holy Land.” It will be closed until further notice.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre closes its doors Photo Credit: Hillel Maeir/TPS
For the first time since the establishment of Israel in 1948, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre has closed its doors until further notice. Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III announced the decision on Sunday alongside Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land Francesco Patton and Armenian Patriarch Nourhan Manougian.
The heads of Jerusalem’s holy churches decided to implement the dramatic move in protest against the municipality’s intention to collect property tax from church-owned properties that are not being used as houses of prayer and the Knesset bill that seeks to allow the state to confiscate properties sold by the churches since 2010 and compensate the owners.
In the announcement, the heads of the churches blasted the Israeli authorities for these plans. “We, the Heads of Churches in charge of the Holy Sepulchre and the Status Quo governing the various Christian Holy Sites in Jerusalem – the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, the Custody of the Holy Land and the Armenian Patriarchate – are following with great concern the systematic campaign against the Churches and the Christian community in the Holy Land, in flagrant violation of the existing Status Quo,” the statement read.
The Christian leaders called the Knesset bill “abhorrent” and claimed that it is similar to laws “which were enacted against the Jews during dark periods in Europe.”
— Nour Odeh (@nour_odeh) February 25, 2018
“This systematic and unprecedented attack against Christians in the Holy Land severely violates the most basic, ab antique and sovereign rights, trampling on the delicate fabric of relations between the Christian Community and the authorities for decades,” the statement continued. “Therefore, and recalling the statement of the Patriarchs and Heads of Local Churches in Jerusalem, dated 14 February, 2018 and their previous statement of September 2017, as a measure of protest, we decided to take this unprecedented step of [the] closure of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.”