Tomb of Christ Reopens After Jerusalem Agrees to Suspend Tax Plan

02 March, 2018, 04:27 | Author: Katrina Soto
  • The Holy Fire ceremony which occurs every year at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Jerusalem Apr 15 2017

In a statement Monday, Cardinal Edwin O'Brien described the closing of the church as "a rare and desperate initiative to keep Christian life alive in the Holy Land" and a protest of what he called Jerusalem's "systematic campaign against the churches and the Christian community in the Holy Land".

It is believed by many Christians to be the site of Jesus' crucifixion and burial and is a major pilgrimage site, drawing millions of tourists annually. They chose to close in protest against an attempt by city hall to tax commercial property owned by the churches, and a draft law in the Knesset that would allow the government to expropriate land sold by churches to private buyers.

"Let me make it clear: we are not talking about houses of worship, who will still be exempt from property tax, according to law", he added.

On Tuesday, the office of Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, announced the government's decision to suspend legislation regarding collecting taxes from churches and their properties.

"I cried when I came (yesterday) and found the church was closed", said Amira, 44.

"It is absurd for Jerusalem residents to fund municipal services for the churches and the United Nations on their own, and for the municipality to be prevented from collecting enormous sums that could significantly improve the city's development and services", Mr Barkat, said this month.

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"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", they stated.

Muslim doorkeeper Wajeeh Nuseibeh stands outside the closed Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem's Old City. Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, flanked by the Catholic Church Custos of the Holy Land Francesco Patton and Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem Nourhan Manougian, made a statement to journalists in front of the church's large wooden doors.

"The president discussed Israel's attempts to impose a property tax on the churches which is unacceptable and a challenge to global legitimacy and the status quo", said Saeb Erekat, the secretary of the PLO's Executive Committee, in a news conference held in Ramallah.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat says the city is due 650 million shekels ($186 million/152 million euros) in uncollected taxes on church properties.

Aboul-Gheit and Bogdanov discussed the outcomes of a mini-Arab ministerial meeting with European ministers on the Palestinian-Israeli peace process in the light of the USA decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The Greek Orthodox patriarch in Jerusalem was sacked after his church sold property to Jewish settler groups, which then evicted Palestinian tenants.

"The prime minister declared he still wants to negotiate".


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