Sunday, 16 June, 2019

Church of the Holy Sepulchre to re-open after taxing dispute

Lebanese President Michel Aoun Lebanese President Michel Aoun
Patty Aguilar | 02 March, 2018, 02:10

Christian leaders in Jerusalem said that they would reopen the ancient Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Wednesday, closed since the weekend in protest at Israeli tax measures.

Custodians representing the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian Apostolic churches, who share custody of the ancient Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem (shown), closed the church on February 25 to protest a new policy by the Jerusalem municipality created to collect taxes on church properties in the city.

Daily Mail says in 1990, Christian sites including the Holy Sepulchre were closed for a day to protest the installation of Jewish settlers near the church.

"As a measure of protest, we chose to take this unprecedented step of closure of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre", the church's Sunday statement said.

Jerusalem is one of the country's poorest cities, and the tax revenue from the properties is estimated to be tens of millions of dollars.

The advancement of the legislation, initiated by Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria and backed by the Justice Ministry, is fiercely opposed by church leaders, who have decried what they see as attempts by Israel to limit their ability to buy and sell their only real assets - real estate.

It went on to voice solidarity with Jerusalem's churches, warning against "the seriousness of these unprecedented Israeli actions which constitute a flagrant violation of global law and conventions".

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It said the church, just like other sacred sites in the city, is exempt from municipal property taxes and that will not change.

The bill's declared aim is to protect homeowners against the possibility private companies will not extend their leases of land on which their residences stand.

Yesterday afternoon, Church leaders in charge of the Holy Sepulchre issued a statement to "give thanks to God" for the statement released by the government of Israel and offer gratitude to all those who have worked tirelessly to uphold the Christian presence in Jerusalem and to defend the "Status Quo".

Past year saw the completion of a nine-month-long, £3.2m ($4m) restoration the Church of the Holy Sepulchre by 50 conservators of the National Technical University of Athens.

Israel also suspended legislation in parliament that would govern sales of church sales to private developers.

What is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre? . Christians revere it as the site where Jesus was crucified and where his tomb is located, and its closing is highly unusual.

And Palestinians have said that formal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and transferring the embassy there makes it impossible for the United States to be a fair broker in any future peace process between them and Israel.

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