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Real threat to Christian presence in Jerusale…

Real threat to Christian presence in Jerusalem asserted by participants in protest action in Old City

DECR Communication Service, 29.03.2022. 

The head of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem, Archimandrite Alexander (Elisov), and the mission staff took part in a protest action organized by Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem with the aim to draw attention of the world public to real threats to which the Christian presence in the Holy City and the entire Holy Land are subjected.

The two old pilgrims houses of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem - “Imperial” and “Petra” located in the square of the Jaffa Gate opened their doors for the heads and representatives of the Christian Churches in the Holy Land, official representatives of Orthodox Patriarchates in Jerusalem, leaders of Christian public organizations in Israel, Palestine, the USA, Sweden and other countries, as well as representatives of the diplomatic corps in several countries and numerous Christian residents of Jerusalem, who gathered together for the protest action to support the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem in its efforts to assert the Christian presence in Jerusalem. The meeting was caused by an unprecedented capture of the Petra pilgrims’ house by representatives of the Orthodox Judaic organization “Ateret Cohanim” (Heb. “Crown of the Priests”) who illegally got in the building and barricaded themselves inside.

The gathering was addressed by His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem, the Custodian of the Holy Land, Francesco Patton, and the manager of the Imperial and Petra pilgrims’ houses, Valid Dajani, who called upon the public to prevent the capture of the buildings in the Christian quarter of Jerusalem by radical Judaic groups. They also pointed to the need to preserve the status quo of the Old City and especially the so-called “Pilgrims’ Path” - the street leading fr om the Jaffa Gate to the Church of the Lord’s Sepulchre.

As Patriarch Theophilos stressed, if the buildings, which stand on the both sides of the Pilgrims’ Path, are moved to the property of Judaic religious organizations, then the key-street of the Old City, in which millions of pilgrims usually walk to the greatest shrine of the world may be fully blocked for Christians.

In addition, religious radicals presented a real threat the stability and health of the whole society, His Beatitude stated.

He recounted that the Christian community of Jerusalem continuously suffered from crimes committed on the grounds of religious hatred and from behind-the-scenes tactics of intimidation and regular attempts to lim it the opportunity for Christians to remain in their historical houses and quarters.

For several years now, the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem has tried to defend its rights to several pilgrims’ houses in the Christian quarter in Jerusalem, which are unfairly claimed by Judaic radical public organizations. A previous similar protest action took place on December 2021, as heads of Christian Churches in Jerusalem addressed a multitude of Jerusalem’s Christians from the balcony of the Imperial pilgrims’ house, stating the inadmissibility of a review of the status quo of the Old City.

A few days after that, on December 13, thirteen Christian Patriarchs and heads of Churches in Jerusalem issued a joint statement drawing attention of the state authorities and public to the threat to the Christian presence in the Holy Land caused by the activity of religious groups, including physical assaults and insults to the clergy, attacks on Christian churches and acts of vandalism against shrines, as well as attempts to violate the integrity and cultural identity of the Christian quarter of the Old City with the aim to ultimately drive the Christian community away from Jerusalem. The text of the statement was published on the official website of Patriarchate of Jerusalem, as well as in printed and ecclesial network resources in Jerusalem. In the beginning of 2022, representatives of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission conveyed to the Patriarch of Jerusalem a list of acts of vandalism towards Russian churches in the Holy Land during 2021.

In January, in his traditional Christmas TV interview, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia stressed, “The concern of His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos is very congenial to us… We are well aware of this story and, generally, of the difficulties encountered by the Church of Jerusalem. We are in full agreement with His Beatitude; we support him and will certainly come to the defence of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem”.

As the press service of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission reports, the legal proceeding has been initiated to present the fact of the capture of the Petra pilgrims’ house of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which took place on March 29.


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