On the statement of His Beatitude Theophilos III Patriarch of Jerusalem concerning the rights violations of Christians and the threats to breach the Status Quo

In July 2017 the heads of the Churches in Jerusalem were compelled to make a public statement of their concern in terms of breach of the Status Quo governing the Holy Sites and ensuring the rights and privileges of the Churches. This statement  was  further  followed  by  another  joint  appeal  in  September  2017,  stressing  the  following  concerns  over  repeated encroachment on the Status Quo:

“We  now  find  ourselves  united  once  again  in  condemning  recent  further  encroachment  on  the  Status  Quo.  In such matters as this, the Heads of the Churches are resolute and united in our opposition to any action by any authority or group that undermines those laws, agreements, and regulations that have ordered our life for centuries. 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.”

The appeal was signed by the following Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem: Patriarch Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate;  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  Swerios Malki  Murad,  Syrian  Orthodox  Patriarchate;  Archbishop  Aba Embakob, Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate; Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey, Greek-Melkite-Catholic Patriarchate; Archbishop Mosa El-Hage, Maronite Patriarchal Exarchate; Archbishop Suheil Dawani, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East; Bishop Munib  Younan,  Evangelical  Lutheran  Church  in Jordan  and  the  Holy  Land;  Bishop  Pierre  Malki,  Syrian  Catholic  Patriarchal Exarchate;  Msgr.  Georges  Dankaye’,  Armenian  Catholic  Patriarchal  Exarchate.

  1. “The Bill of Church Lands”.

On July 26th, an unprecedented draft law was put on the agenda of to the Knesset. It quickly gained support from about 40 lawmakers of the Knesset as their signatures appeared on the so called “Bill of Church Lands”. All the Churches are deeply concerned about the unpredictable consequences following the adoption of the draft law, as it is directed at the severe restriction of their rights on the properties and lands they currently own.

  1. “Jaffa Gate case”.

Another issue regarding the infringements on religious freedom in Israel took place in July 2017 when the Jerusalem District Court issued its ruling against the Church mainly in terms of two landmark hotel buildings that belong to the Jerusalem  Patriarchate  on  the  right  of  ownership  in  the  Old  City’s  Jaffa  Gate.  In  2004,  when  the  Patriarchate  was  headed by the now deposed Patriarch Irineos, an unauthorized contract for long-term leases was conducted with the

radical settler group Ateret Cohanim.

Taking account of the abovementioned observations, we express our utmost concern about the current  situation with religious  freedom  in  Israel.  We  call  on  the  international  community  and  the  responsible  human  rights  bodies  to immediately intervene into the evolving confrontation in Israel in order to prevent further encroachment on the Status Quo.