For refusing the restrictions on the Holy Saturday celebrations in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and for not restricting the freedom of believers in Jerusalem
In keeping with the alarming developments in the city of Jerusalem and the restrictions imposed by the occupying power on worshipers and pilgrims to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Middle East Council of Churches and its General Secretariat declare their support for the position of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and affirm the sanctity of freedom of religion and the right to worship and pray in the city of Jerusalem. Furthermore, the Council calls for a consolidation of this position and to rally around the principled and correct position of the Patriarchate.
The Patriarchate addressed a letter to the occupation police, rejecting any restrictions on the number of people who may celebrate Holy Saturday inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, its courtyard, its surroundings, its roof, or the entrances leading to it.
The letter was signed by the Patriarchate’s Elder Secretary-General, Archbishop Aristarchus of Constantina. In it, he refuted the police’s arguments for placing restrictions on the number of worshipers and limiting them to only 1,700 people, as offered by the police. However, the Patriarchate rejected this offer on the grounds that it infringes on the right to freedom of worship.
The letter stated that the number of people who celebrate Holy Saturday in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher ranges from ten thousand to eleven thousand people annually as it is the natural capacity of the Church. Furthermore, no incidents affecting the safety of the worshipers have been recorded over the past years. Therefore, the police’s argument that they are limiting attendance because of “public safety” lacks any rationale.
Accordingly, the Council considers that the question of the Patriarchate in its message “If the pretext of public safety is a reason to reduce the number of worshipers inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, then why are there restrictions on its courtyard, roof, adjacent neighborhoods, and even the entrances to the Old City, specifically from Bab Jadid and Bab Al-Khalil, the two main entrances to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Christian Quarter?”, a question that needs to be answered by the occupying power through the abolition of all restrictions and unjust measures.
On Good Friday, the Middle East Council of Churches reiterates its demand for the realization of justice and the lifting of the occupation of Jerusalem, the city of light, prayer, and peace. Additionally, The Council demands with the Patriarchate, not to impede the arrival of worshipers and priests from different monasteries to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, as well as to facilitate the transfer of the Holy Fire to the airport in order to reach every believer around the world as is customary.