We, the Patriarchs, the Custos, and the Heads of the Churches and Christian Communities of Jerusalem, have gathered together today, April 23, 1990, to formulate our response to the extremely serious events that took place during Holy Week and the consequences that followed.
On the afternoon of April 11, 1990, Wednesday of Holy Week, 150 settlers, among whom numbered many armed men, forcibly took Saint John’s Hospice, located in the heart of the Christian Quarter in the Old City, a 3,000 square-meter property belonging to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate.
Their act was supported by Israeli authorities. It was financed, at least in large part, by the government, and there have been visits from government ministers and parliamentary officials to encourage the settlers. It appears that later on, high-level government officials interceded to prevent the police from enforcing court Orders for eviction.
This act took place just before the culmination of Holy Week and un- fortunately led to the Interruption of some of the most solemn ceremonies of the Christian religion in the most sacred sanctuary of Christianity, the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre.
The government-backed act of the settlers continues to provoke daily violence within the neighborhood around Saint Sepulchre, where administrative centers for the Churches are situated; it has occasioned the pro- vocative presence of a large number of armed men within a confined space. Consequently, freedom of access to Saint Sepulchre and the freedom of the area in general are now threatened.
This act of armed settlement seriously compromises the integrity and the cultural and religious autonomy of the Christian, Armenian, and Muslim neighborhoods and is in violation of the secular status and character of these neighborhoods of the Holy City, which have been respected by all who have ruled Jerusalem in the past and by the international community (and which the Israeli authorities themselves have promised to safeguard on numerous occasions).37
Furthermore, this action constitutes a danger to the survival of all Christian communities within the Holy City.
The Jerusalem Heads of Churches Speak
We, the Heads of the Christian Churches and Communities of Jerusalem, unreservedly condemn the actions of these settlers.
We deplore the open support and encouragement that this action has received from Israeli government quarters.
We ask that Israeli authorities arrange for the immediate evacuation of these settlers and return the property to its legitimate owners, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate.
We call upon the international community, upon all the Churches, upon all religious leaders, and upon all men of goodwill throughout the world to lend us their active support.
We have unanimously decided that:
- On Friday, April 27, all the Christian Holy Places in Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem, and elsewhere in the Holy Land shall close their doors at nine a.m. and shall not re-open until the next day.
- On the same day, Churches throughout the country shall toll their bells once per hour between nine a.m. and noon.
- Sunday, April 29, shall be a special day of prayer focusing on the Christian community of Jerusalem. We invite all our Christian brothers throughout the world to join us.
We have decided to remain in open session in order to closely follow the developments in this affair.
Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem
Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem
Custos of the Holy Land (Franciscan)
Coptic Archbishop of Jerusalem
Syrian Archbishop of Jerusalem
Ethiopian Archbishop of Jerusalem
Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem
Greek-Catholic Patriarchal Vicar
40 Lutheran Bishop of Jerusalem