JERUSALEM — Days after Christian leaders in the Holy Land bolted shut the doors to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in protest of attempts by the Jerusalem municipality to impose taxation on church properties, Israeli authorities backtracked Tuesday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wading into the dispute.
A statement from Netanyahu’s office said that in coordination with Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, a professional team would be established, led by a senior government minister and representatives of the foreign and finance ministries, to “formulate a solution to the issue of municipal taxes on buildings belonging to the churches that are not houses of worship.”
But the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which draws thousands of pilgrims daily to the place where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and later resurrected, remained shuttered Tuesday. Church leaders said they had received Netanyahu’s statement and were still contemplating reopening the church.
In a news conference Sunday, the leaders of the Greek Orthodox, Catholic and Armenian churches, which jointly manage the site, said they had received “collection notices and orders of seizure of Church assets, properties and bank accounts for alleged debts of punitive municipal taxes.”
Later, in a joint statement, the churches said Israel was waging a “systematic campaign against the churches and the Christian community in the Holy Land, in flagrant violation of the existing status quo.” Read More