In a statement released the first week of September, the patriarchs and local heads of churches in Jerusalem condemned further encroachments on the status quo related to the city’s holy sites. The text is the second statement of concern in three months about the status quo, with a prior one issued in July.
“This Status Quo is universally recognized by both religious authorities and governments, and has always been upheld by the civil authorities of our region,” reads the statement. “We now find ourselves united once again in condemning recent further encroachment on the Status Quo.”
The heads of the churches said they are united in their opposition to any action by any authority or group that undermines the laws, agreements, and regulations that have ordered their lives for centuries.
“There have been further actions that are a clear breach of the Status Quo,” reads the statement. “The judgement in the ‘Jaffa Gate’ case against the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which we regard as unjust, as well as a proposed bill in the Knesset which is politically motivated that would restrict the rights of the Churches over our own property, are further assaults on the rights that the Status Quo has always guaranteed.”
The statement affirms that a vital, vibrant Christian community is an essential element in the make-up of a diverse society, and threats to the Christian community can only increase the troubling tensions that have emerged in these turbulent times. “Such attempts to undermine the Christian community of Jerusalem and the Holy Land do not affect one Church only; they affect us all, and they affect Christians and all people of good will around the world,” the statement reads.
The church leaders said they have always been faithful to their mission to ensure that Jerusalem and the holy sites are open to all.
“We therefore, as those to whom Divine Providence has entrusted the care of both the Holy Sites and the pastoral oversight of the living, indigenous Christian communities of the Holy Land, call upon our fellow Church leaders and faithful around the world, as well as the heads of governments, and all people of good will, to support us in order to ensure that no further attempts are made from any quarter to change the historical Status Quo and its provisions and spirit,” the statement concludes.
“We cannot stress strongly enough the very serious situation that this recent systematic assault on the Status Quo has had on the integrity of Jerusalem and on the well-being of the Christian communities of the Holy Land, as well as on the stability of our society.”