Christian leaders in Jerusalem gather in defense of city’s Christian quarter against radical groups

Jerusalem, July 12, 2019


A pan-Christian prayer vigil was held at the Jaffa Gate in the Christian quarter of the Holy City of Jerusalem yesterday, to raise awareness about radical groups “compromising the integrity and character of Jerusalem’s Christian Quarter and threatening the access for pilgrims to the holy shrines and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.”

His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem, together with the patriarchs and heads of Jerusalem’s other churches, emphasized that they cannot remain silent as they see the hope for a lasting peace fading away and while access to the many Christian holy sites is being threatened, reports the Jerusalem Patriarchate’s press service.

The Times of Israel reports that the vigil was a protest against the sale of Jerusalem Patriarchate-owned properties to a Jewish pro-settlement group in Palestinian areas of East Jerusalem. The organization Ateret Cohanim works to increase the Jewish population by purchasing real estate through front companies.

On June 11, the Supreme Court of Israel rejected the Orthodox Church’s appeal over such sales from 2004-2005. Ateret Cohanim is now the owner of the majority of the real estate between the Jaffa Gate and the Old City’s Arab market.

It was also announced during the vigil that an “International Day of Prayer for the Christian Community and Christian Quarter of Jerusalem” will be held in Jerusalem.

Pat. Theophilos offered the following remarks at the prayer vigil:

We stand here, at the Jaffa Gate, the heart of the Christian Quarter. We stand to pray for our beloved city. We stand as disciples, faithful to Christ in the place of His passion. We stand alongside the millions of pilgrims from every tribe and tongue who visit and bless this Holy City. We stand together with the tenants of our properties who have long provided an open door to visitors and worshipers from far and near.

And from the bottom of our heart we thank our fellow Church leaders in Jerusalem for joining us and standing with us in solidarity; we all and together share our common beliefs, our common humanity and our common destiny; specific to these matters and general for our communities.

As a community of reconciliation, we refuse to allow radical groups to dilute the integrity and character of Jerusalem’s Christian Quarter. We cannot remain silent while access to our holy sites is threatened and the hope of a lasting peace is diminished. We will not remain silent.

As a community of justice, we demand that the rule of law is upheld and stand united against any attempt to take Church properties by unlawful measures or to forcefully evict innocent tenants. We warn against any such attempt and we shall not fear to use all legitimate means to oppose and block this from occurring. We remain impassioned guardians of the status quo and will ensure that people of all faiths can flourish and thrive within the walls of this city.

We pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Today, we call upon Christians everywhere to join us in prayer and invite brothers and sisters to gather in September 2019 for an International Day of Prayer for the Christian Community and Quarter in Jerusalem. We look forward to welcoming Christian leaders and worshipers from around the world as we continue our fight to preserve and protect the Christian community here in the Holy Land.

With King David, the greatest ruler, we pray for the divine peace and security within these walls (Psalm 122:6-7).

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