The Council of Jerusalem Churches has achieved a new victory against the Israeli government, with an “unprecedented number of US churches condemn[ing] Israeli attempts to confiscate church lands,” a Council statement – a copy of which was sent to MEMO – said on Friday.
The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, who heads the Council of Jerusalem Churches has toured the USA and EU countries to lobby against an Israeli law – known as the “Properties Bill” – which was recently advanced in the Knesset to target church property.
Following the tour, a group of US churches sent a letter to the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemning the Israeli move, the statement said. The US churches wrote in their letter: “The extent to which the Jerusalem Patriarchs and Heads of Churches consider this legislation to be an existential threat cannot be overstated”.
The letter added:
When the bill was first introduced this past February, the Heads of Churches protested by closing the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in a historic act of solidarity. In response, eighteen religious leaders in the US, representing a diverse spectrum of Christianity, wrote to [US] President Trump expressing the need to protect the vulnerable Christian community in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Mr Secretary, all efforts must be made so that a similar crisis may be avoided.
In July, the Council of Jerusalem Churches called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to prevent discussion of the bill “because it serves racist groups and undermines the status of churches”. Theophilos III warned the Israeli government that approving this law would push the Council of Jerusalem Churches to close the Church of Holy Sepulchre, in partnership with the heads of all churches in the world.
In February, the Council of Churches closed the Church of Holy Sepulchre in protest against a proposed municipal tax on church property.