ASIA/ISRAEL - The re-opening of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. A government commission will address disputes over church properties

Wednesday, 28 February 2018 jerusalem   holy places   middle east   oriental churches

Jerusalem (Agenzia Fides) - The Church of the Holy Sepulcher opened its doors on February 28th, 2018 at 4.00 AM. The protest, which started last Sunday due to the decision of the leaders of the three ecclesial realities - the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, and the Armenian Patriarchate Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Armenian Apostolic Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Custody of the Holy Land – in charge of the Basilica - lasted three days in order to denounce the "systematic campaign against Churches and the Christian community in the Holy Land, in flagrant violation of the 'Status Quo'", attributed to the Israeli authorities.
Thanks to the statement released yesterday afternoon by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli government will seek together with the Christian Churches present in the Holy Land shared solutions to overcome the points of contrast. The negotiation will be entrusted to a committee chaired by Tzachi Hanegbi, Israeli minister for regional cooperation. In the meantime - warned the note released by the office of the Israeli Premier - the Jerusalem Municipality is suspending the collection actions it has taken in recent weeks on properties in the Holy City owned by churches . The Hanegbi Commission will also deal with the thorny issue of the ecclesiastical properties that in the past had been rented for long periods - in most cases under 99-year contracts signed between the church and the state, via the Jewish National Fund. But in recent years, in order to erase massive debts, the same ecclesial subjects has sold vast swaths of real estate to private investors. The Israeli Parliament has long been working on a bill to guarantee the State of Israel the possibility of confiscating such lands and real estate, taking them away from possible property disputes, especially to protect the interests of current tenants. Now, in view of the future negotiations between the Israeli government and ecclesial subjects, any legislative initiative regarding this controversial issue is suspended. The statement by the Israeli Premier's office also reiterated that "Israel is proud to be the only country in the Middle East where Christians and believers of all faiths have full freedom of religion and worship".
Yesterday afternoon, even the Heads of ecclesial realities that are in charge of the Holy Sepulcher issued a statement to "give thanks to God" for the statement released by the government of Israel 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 set of rules and customs on which the coexistence between different religious communities in the Holy City has been founded since the times of the Ottoman Empire, ed.). (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 28/2/2018)