Jerusalem, April 21, 2022
The Patriarchate of Jerusalem completely rejects any restrictions on the number of worshipers allowed in, on, or around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre during the holy Fire service on Saturday.
In a letter to the Israeli police on Wednesday, the Church dismissed their arguments for restricting the number to 1,700 parishioners “on principled grounds that it doesn’t accept any infringement to the right to freedom of worship,” the Patriarchate reports.
The Church also protested the restrictions in a statement earlier this month, emphasizing that the authorities are making it increasingly harder for the faithful to enter the Old City of Jerusalem, especially around the Paschal holidays.
OrthoChristian was informed by the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem that police decided to limit religious ceremonies following the incident last April in Meron, Israel, when 45 men and boys were killed and about 150 were injured in a crowd stampede on the Jewish holiday of Lag BaOmer.
However, there have been no such incidents at the Holy Fire service, the Patriarchate notes, “so the police’s argument that restricting the number of worships due to ‘public safety’ concerns lacks any logical basis.”
The Patriarchate asked in its letter:
If the pretext of public safety is a reason for reducing the number of worshipers inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, then why are there restrictions on in its courtyard, rooftop, adjacent neighborhoods, or even the entrances to the Old City? Especially at the main entrances to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Christian Quarter.
The Church “made it clear that it will proceed as usual with its normal procedures related to Holy Fire Saturday and that it will issue invitations as it deems appropriate and without any limits… The patriarchate affirmed the right of all worshipers to access the Church of the Sepulchre … without any obstacles.”
In the letter, the Patriarchate demanded that police not erect barriers in the Old City that would impede access to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and that they facilitate the transfer of the Holy Fire to the airport to be delivered throughout the Christian world.