From: Archimandrite Alexis [mailto:email@example.com] Sent: Monday, February 26, 2018 4:31 AM To: Archimandrite Alexis Subject: Jerusalem Churches Close the Holy Sepulchre
From Mother Agapia of the St Nicolas Convent, Cleveland NY:-
Begin forwarded message:
From: magapia stephanopoulos
Subject: Jerusalem Churches Close the Holy Sepulcher
Date: 25 February 2018 at 23:14:40 GMT
Dear Friends and fellow pilgrims to the Holy Land,
Will write more later on what steps we can take, but for now asking for your prayers for Christians of the Holy Land.
one who has traveled to Jerusalem numerous times in recent years, while
distressing, this latest action by Israeli government authorities
against the Christian communities is hardly a surprise. The
strengthening of a hawkish right wing Israeli government, sadly strongly
supported by the US, has emboldened Israel to take ever more brazen
steps to not only trample the rights of all Palestinians, but has
seriously harmed the abilities of the Christian communities to carry out
their witness in the Holy Land.
we enter the season of Great Lent how sad to think to that the leaders
of the Church in Jerusalem feel compelled to close the doors of the Holy
Sepulcher to draw attention to their plight.
Lord have mercy on us!
Please take the time to read Ambassador Theros' comments below.
Unprecedented action to close the Holy Sepulcher in protest of the new taxes and Church Lands Bill !!!
Subject: Jerusalem Churches Close the Holy Sepulcher
Date: February 25, 2018 at 10:12:43 AM EST
Dear friends and colleagues:
regret to inform you that the threats to Churches in Jerusalem about
which we warned you has accelerated. The law allowing confiscation of
Church lands has moved forward in the legislative process and the
Jerusalem Municipality has frozen hundreds of millions in Church bank
acts violate the centuries old legal regime of the Status Quo which
governs the relationship of the Churches with Government, a Status Quo
that has been formally accepted by the Government of Israel.
a result the heads of all Christian Churches established in Jerusalem
have no choice but to take a formal action to make the Government of
Israel and the outside world aware of the existential threat they face.
interest groups have manufactured this crisis over property of great
value which is essential to sustain the presence of Christianity in the
Holy Land. The groups created this unnecessary crisis for what appears
to be mostly financial gain or political ends. The crisis presents a
threat to the reputation and international standing of the State of
Israel as much as it does to the Churches.
urge you all to take whatever measures you deem appropriate to convince
the relevant authorities to reverse these unacceptable and damaging
The Churches have released the following:
FOR IMMEDIATE PRESS RELEASE
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. POLITICAL PERSECUTION LEADS TO THE CLOSURE OF CHRISTIANITY’S HOLIEST SITE
leaders of Jerusalem’s churches have today announced the unprecedented
decision to close the Church of the Holy Sepulchre until further notice,
in protest at persistent moves to intimidate Christians and
discriminate against churches in the Holy Land. The Church of the Holy
Sepulchre, which dates back to the fourth century, is considered to
contain the sites of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ,
making it the holiest site in the world for Christians.
decision to close the Holy Sepulchre comes in response to recent
actions by the Jerusalem Municipality and by members of the Israeli
Knesset. The Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, is attempting to enforce a
punitive and retroactive tax on church properties in the Holy City.
Furthermore, Knesset member, Rachel Azaria (“Kulanu” party)is
seeking to advance the “Bill of Church Lands”, which would give the
Israeli government the power to confiscate church property. These
actions contravene the long held Status Quo which is foundational to the
guarantee of the churches’ rights and privileges in the Holy Land; and
critically undermines the ability of churches to carry out their
pastoral mission of housing the community, feeding the poor, caring for
refugees, running schools for local children and maintaining the holy
sites. Above all, they imperil the continuation of the Christian
presence in Jerusalem.
The closure was announced on Sunday by
the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, the Catholic Custos of the
Holy Land and the Armenian Patriarch. Their joint statement argues that
‘the systematic campaign against the Churches and the Christian
community in the Holy Land’ has ‘reached an unprecedented level as the
Jerusalem municipality issued scandalous collection notices and orders
of seizure of Church assets, properties and bank accounts for alleged
debts of punitive municipal taxes.’The
statement also highlights the ‘discriminatory and racist bill that
targets solely the properties of the Christian community in the Holy
developments come in a period when Christians are suffering an
escalating campaign of intimidation from radical settler groups.
Churches face daily desecration and vandalism and Christians are
regularly subjected to violent assault as they travel to pray. These
groups have long used intimidation, bribery and extreme anti-social
behaviour in an attempt to force Christians and other non-Jews out of
the Holy City. While their actions clearly contravene Israeli law their
crimes go largely unchecked.
Today’s statement reads as follows:
Statement on Municipal threats and the discriminatory “Church Lands Bill” 25.02.2018
the heads of Churches in charge of the Holy Sepulcher 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.
this systematic and offensive campaign has reached an unprecedented
level as the Jerusalem municipality issued scandalous collection notices
and orders of seizure of Church assets, properties and bank accounts
for alleged debts of punitive municipal taxes. A step that is contrary
to the historic position of the Churches within the Holy City of
Jerusalem and their relationship with the civil authorities. These
actions breach existing agreements and international obligations which
guarantee the rights and the privileges of the Churches, in what seems
as an attempt to weaken the Christian presence in Jerusalem. 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
systematic campaign of abuse against Churches and Christians reaches
now its peak as a discriminatory and racist bill that targets solely the
properties of the Christian community in the Holy Land is being
promoted. This abhorrent bill is set to advance today in a meeting of a
ministerial committee which if approved would make the expropriation of
the lands of churches possible. This reminds us all of laws of a similar
nature which were enacted against the Jews during dark periods in
systematic and unprecedented attack against Christians in the Holy Land
severely violates the most basic, ab antiquo and sovereign rights,
trampling on the delicate fabric of relations between the Christian
community and the authorities for decades.
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 closure of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
with all Heads of Churches in the Holy Land we stand united, firm and
resolute in protecting our rights and our properties.
May the Holy Spirit answer our prayers and bring a resolution to this historic Crisis in our Holy City.
THEOPHILOS III, Patriarch of Jerusalem
FRANCESCO PATTON, Custos of the Holy Land
NOURHAN MANOUGIAN, Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem
For further information, please contact...
Ambassador Patrick Theros (US Spokesperson for the Patriarch of Jerusalem) on
Further information on the actions of the Jerusalem Municipality
early 2018, the Municipality announced that it would start collecting
property tax from church-owned properties. As well as hotels and
businesses, the targeted properties include residences for the community
including those within monasteries, community centres, schools and
clinics. These properties are central to the churches’ work in the
community and provide vital income for the community services that
churches provide for residents. Further, the Municipality is seeking to
force the churches to pay these taxes retroactively. In response to
their protest that these taxes are unlawful and unjust, the Municipality
has charged assets and properties of churches as well as the bank
accounts of some churches.
Further information on the Bill of Church Lands
bill was first proposed by Rachel Azaria, a member of the Knesset for
Kulanu. She was previously deputy mayor of Jerusalem. The bill had been
signed by 40 members (one third of the Knesset) and was first submitted
to the Chairman of the Knesset and the Deputies of the Chairman and
presented to the Knesset on the 26 July, 2017.
the bill gives the state the right to confiscate Churches’ land, if
such land has attached to it leasehold rights and the Church awards any
rights, on such lands, to any party that is not a party of the original
leasehold. The bill has been referred to a committee headed by Justice
Minister, Ayelet Shaked. Shaked is a member of the ‘Jewish Home’ party.
That committee is due to meet today Sunday to consider advancing the bill.
Further information on the activity of radical settler groups
groups seek to coerce residents in the Muslim and Christian quarters of
the Old City of Jerusalem to leave. They have a long track record of
extreme anti-social behaviour, including desecration and vandalism of
Christian property and holy sites, physical and verbal assault of
Christians and Christian clergy and intimidation of non-Jews.
Haaretz journalist Nir Hasson has uncovered evidence of the chairman of
Ateret Cohanim use of various underhanded tactics including offering
prostitutes to Palestinian property owners to encourage them to transfer
their property to the group. Hasson found recordings of the group
threatening owners that they will publicise the negotiations unless
owners comply with the settler group. Hasson writes that such publicity
would endanger an owner’s life. The recordings demonstrate that these
settlers often work through intermediaries to hide their involvement.
They even offer to help the sellers with unresolved issues with the
Israel Tax Authority or the Jerusalem Municipality
The Jaffa Gate case
case of the properties around the Jaffa Gate stands as a particularly
worrying example of the actions of these settler groups. In 2004, a
rogue employee of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem signed
over long term leases for three properties to one of these groups,
Ateret Cohanim. The employee, Nikolas Papadimas had been given a power
of attorney by then-Patriarch Irenaios, who denied giving the power of
attorney for this purpose and claimed that Papadimas had made him sign a
version that he did not approve. The deal was done with no legal
representation on the part of the Patriarchate. None of the clergy,
including the leadership, in the Patriarchate knew about the deal. The
Synod of the Patriarchate was not informed about the deal. No funds were
received by the Patriarchate for the properties.
purported deal awards the settler group a 99 year lease over the
properties, with the option to extend for another 99 years. This lease
does not affect the rights of the sitting tenants but places the settler
group as their landlord. In 2004, the Patriarchate refused to accept
the deal. The settler group took the Patriarchate to court to enforce
their claimed right. The court battle lasted a decade and the
Patriarchate was able to prove: that the employee in question had
received a bribe, that there was bad faith, that there was a conspiracy
to make this deal and that the agreements lacked due authority from the
Patriarchate. Despite this the District Court wrongfully ruled in July
of 2017 against the Patriarchate.
in the first week of November, the Patriarchate lodged an appeal to the
High Court of Justice. Were this appeal to prove unsuccessful, the
results would be immensely damaging to the integrity of the Old City.
The properties in question are the Imperial Hotel, the Petra Hotel and a
small house situated on a small plot of land near Herod’s Gate. The
hotels are both on “Omar Ibn Al-Khatab” square, the very entrance of the
Jaffa Gate and in the heart of the Christian Quarter the seat of all
the Patriarchates’ and Churches’ administration headquarters and less
than 500 meters away from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. If the
settler group were to gain control of these properties, they would be
able to pressure the tenants out of the property. There is the very real
potential that they would be aided in this goal by the civic organs of
the city of Jerusalem. Once they had forced the tenants out, they would
be able to pursue their aggressive campaign of removing non-Jews from
the city and from these strategic centres at the heart of the Christian
Quarter, threatening the very presence of Christians in the Holy Land.
investigation in Haaretz has since demonstrated that Ateret Cohanim
lied to the Jerusalem District Court about their evaluation of the value
of the properties.