Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre closes in protest

Christian leaders in Jerusalem recently closed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for four days in protest over a new tax policy and proposed property law.

The decision, to close what is considered the holiest site in Christianity, was made at secret meeting of church leaders in Jerusalem’s old city on Saturday 24 February. In a joint statement church leaders said the site would be closed until further notice and declared shared concerns over what they saw as a “….systematic campaign against the Churches and the Christian community the Holy Land.” 

Theophilos III, the Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fr Francesco Patton, the Custos of the Holy Land, and Nourhan Manougian, the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, issued a joint statement saying, (to see their full statement click here)

The systematic campaign of abuse against Churches and Christians reaches its peak …. The greatest victims in this are those impoverished families who will go without food and housing, as well as the children who will be unable to attend school... May the Holy Spirit answer our prayers and bring a resolution to this historic crisis.

by Theophilos III, Fr Francesco Patton, Nourhan Manougian

FHL patron, Bishop Chessun of Southwark, having very recently returned from pilgrimage to the Holy Land is reported as saying,

I think it's important for the Christian Church to respond to what has been the decision of the heads of the five senior Churches with prayer and solidarity …. we shouldn't in any way underrate the significance of this moment.”book.

by FHL Patron Bishop Christopher Chessun

For the full story on Bishop Chessun’s thoughts on the closure of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre click here

The Church was reopened on Wednesday 28 Feb.  Israeli Prime Minister and Mayor of West Jerusalem Israeli municipality, Nir Barkat, said we will “formulate a solution,” announcing suspension of the collection actions it has taken in recent weeks. For more on recent developments this click here

The Statements:

A Statement from the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, Wednesday February 14, 2018 - click here 

A statement by the Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem, the Custos of the Holy Land and the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, Wednesday February 28, 2018 Municipal threats and the discriminatory “Church Lands Bill”  - click here

What is the significance of the Holy Sepulchre?

According to Christian tradition, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem marks the location of Christ’s crucifixion, burial and resurrection. Recognised as Christianity’s most holy site it is a key destination for Holy Land pilgrims. Management of the Church is shared by various Christian denominations including the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and Roman Catholics.