In a rare move, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem has been indefinitely shut in protest against what church leaders say is “discriminatory” Israeli policy aimed at weakening Christian presence in the holy city.
In a statement released on Sunday, church leaders said Israel was violating the status quo at the site, which is one of the holiest in Christianity, at an “unprecedented level”.
The church is believed by many Christians to be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial, and is a major pilgrimage site.
Referring to a bill recently introduced in Israel’s parliament that would allow the Israeli state to take over church properties leased to private companies, they said: “The 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 …”
The statement, signed by Roman Catholic, Armenian and Greek Orthodox church leaders, also condemned plans by the Israeli government to begin imposing taxes on church properties.
“These actions breach existing agreements and international obligations, which guarantee the rights and privileges of the Churches, in what seems as an attempt to weaken the Christian presence in Jerusalem,” the press release read.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is located in occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City.