Church leaders in Jerusalem said today in a joint statement that an Israeli court’s ruling on property of the Greek Orthodox Church at Jaffa Gate of the occupied old city of Jerusalem threatens Christian presence in the holy city.
“We, the Heads of the Churches and Christian Communities in Jerusalem, stand united in our commitment to safeguard the historical Status Quo of the Holy Sites and rights of the Churches which are universally recognized,” said the church leaders.
“The case of Jaffa Gate threatens this Status Quo.
The Greek Orthodox Church is battling in court Jewish settlement organizations seeking to take over its Jaffa Gate property under the pretext of ownership, a claim strongly contested by the church.
“We don't see this case as a mere property dispute. We see the undertaking of radical groups to take control of properties at Jaffa Gate as a systematic attempt to undermine the integrity of the Holy City, to obstruct the Christian pilgrim route and to weaken the Christian presence in Jerusalem,” said the 13 church leaders.
They called on the Israeli government “to act in order to safeguard the integrity of the Christian heritage and patrimony in the Old City, as well as the Holy Sites and the rights of the residents of the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem.”
“These are places which over two billion Christians around the world look at as the very heart of their faith; which millions of Christian pilgrims visit each year; and in which the local Christians live out their faith,” they said.
The statement was signed by Patriarch Theophilos Ill, Greek Orthodox, Patriarch Nourhan Manougian, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarchate, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator, Latin Patriarchate, Fr. Francesco Patton, ofm, Custos of the Holy Land, Archbishop Anba Antonious, Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem, Archbishop Gabriel Daho, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate, Archbishop Aba Embakob, Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate, Archbishop Yaser AL-Ayash, Greek-Melkite-Catholic Patriarchate, Archbishop Mosa El-Hage, Maronite Patriarchal Exarchate, Archbishop Suheil Dawani, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Bishop Ibrahim Sani Azar, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, Father Ephram Samaan, Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate, and Rt Rev. Joseph Nerses Zabarian, Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate