Local Council of St. James Orthodox Cathedral reaffirms the right of everyone to access the Holy Sepulcher Church in dignity and freedom to celebrate Saturday’s Holy Fire.

Ramallah – Alquds correspondent – The Council of the Orthodox community reaffirms the right of all believers and all the Greek Orthodox Arab community to have free access to the Cathedral of St. James during the celebration of Holy Fire without police permits and military barriers based on the Status Quo that has been preserved throughout  hundreds of years and consistent with international laws and norms, human rights and freedom of worship.


This came at a meeting of the Council on 7 of April 2009 that included both the secretary of the Greek Patriarchate, Archbishop Aristarchos, and the Orthodox Bishop Christodouls, the parish priests, agents of the Council of the Church, the Mukhtar and the Israeli police officer in charge of the Christian community affairs.


During the meeting all have emphasized the need for believers to be allowed free access to places of worship and the practice of religion without harassment and closures. Israel’s refusal to permit access to places of worship, which deprives thousands of the faithful to participate in the celebrations and to enter the old town are considered incompatible with basic human rights to freedom of worship and religious practice and contrary to the Status Quo.


It is worth mentioning that last year the Israeli occupation authorities prevented the arrival of the believers to the Church of the Resurrection during Saturday’s Holy fire celebrations in an attempt to change the Status Quo and this was considered another attempt to pressure people of Christian denominations to migrate.


In the meeting the council appealed to the Christian leaders and personalities, especially the international community, the Middle East Council of Churches, and the World Council of Churches to pressure the Israeli occupation in order to allow the worshipers access to places of worship, as entrusted to freedom of religions for hundreds of years. The community refuses to take permits from the police to exercise their religious rituals.


It is worth mentioning that Israel transforms the area around the Church of the Resurrection to Military barracks, and they take arbitrary actions against the congregation trying to reach the Church for these celebrations.


This is part of the major concern within religious and community circles that Israel is resorting to the imposition of arbitrary actions under the pretext of security, limiting access for the faithful performance of rites and, during such celebrations and also during the upcoming visit of the Pope in the Holy Land .