UOC-MP Offers Material Aid to Patriarch of Jerusalem to Prevent Closure of Church

8 November 2012, 11:00 | Inter-Orthodox relations | 0 |   | Code for Blog |  | 

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate is concerned over the threat of closure of the most holy Christian place, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, because of a dispute with an Israeli utility company.

Therefore, Metropolitan Volodymyr sent a letter to Patriarch Theophilus III with a request to accept charitable aid from the UOC-MP, the church’s website reported.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem has warned that it may have to close, because of a dispute with a utility company. The ancient church, believed to be on the site of Calvary, where Jesus was crucified, has had its bank account frozen, at the request of Hagihon water company. The dispute has left hundreds of staff unpaid.

Traditionally the church was never charged for water bills, Israeli newspaper Maariv reports. But in the 1990s, Hagihon took over the water supply, and rejected the old arrangement. The company is still supplying water to the building but a Hagihon spokesman said Israeli law did not permit any exemptions.

In 2004, it sent a backdated demand to the church for 3.7m shekels (£590,000), a bill which is increasing with interest. The company now claims it is owed £1.4 million in unpaid bills for the past 15 years.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos II said he thought there must have been a mistake because the company had never pressed the church for payment "If nothing changes we intend to announce... for the first time in centuries, that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is closed,” he said.

Father Isidoros Fakitsas, Superior of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, said he understood an agreement had been reached with Hagihon a few weeks ago, under which all the denominations at the church would pay their monthly bills but the old debt would be written off.

He sais he was surprised that the Patriarchate's bank account had been blocked. This has made it impossible to pay stipends to about 500 priests and monks, 2,000 teachers and the running costs of more than 30 schools. The church is also unable to to pay for other services including electricity, telephone, internet and even food suppliers. Fr. Fakitsas said the Patriarchate would be able to function despite the frozen bank account and that it would try to find an alternative if matters became too difficult, such as opening another bank account.

In a letter to Israel's prime minister and president Patriarch Theophilos III warns that the "enforcement of this unjustified step undermines the sanctity and offends the sensitivity of the site."

The Israeli tourism ministry said it is trying to mediate between the Patriarchate and the Jerusalem municipality, and hopes the dispute would be resolved quickly.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is cared for jointly by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate and the Roman Catholic Franciscan Custos, www.indcatholicnews.com reported.

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