Published: 2018-02-28 11:25
Last Updated: 2018-02-28 12:40
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher reopened its doors on Wednesday for pilgrims and visitors after a three-day closure that protested a new taxation on church properties and land expropriation imposed by Israel.
On Tuesday night, Heads of Churches, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, the Custodian of the Holy Land and the Armenian Patriarchate, took the decision to reopen the church in an urgent meeting after the Israeli government decided to freeze the controversial bill that imposed taxes on church-owned properties.
The decision was a result of pressure exerted by the heads of major churches in Jerusalem which lead Benjamin Netanyahu to ask Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi to formulate a solution to the issue of tax collection from churches. The freeze was announced in a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office.
Church leaders responded with a statement expressing gratitude for the efforts made to reverse the bill by saying: “[We, heads of churches] give thanks to God for the statement released earlier today by Prime Minister Netanyahu and offer our gratitude to all those who have worked tirelessly to uphold the Christian presence in Jerusalem and to defend the status quo.”
The statement also added,“After the constructive intervention of the prime minister, the Churches look forward to engage with Minister Hanegbi, and with all those who love Jerusalem to ensure that our holy city, where our Christian presence continues to face challenges, remains a place where the three monotheistic faiths may live and thrive together”.
Palestinians in Jerusalem celebrated the suspension of the taxation bill. Member of the executive committee and head of the Supreme Presidential Committee for Church Affairs Hana Amira said the temporary halt was brought about by the stand taken by the churches heads. “The only solution is for the occupation to completely reverse its decision,” he tol Wafa news agency.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is one of the holiest pilgrimage sites in Christianity as it is believed to be the site of Jesus's crucifixion and burial.