The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, represented by Patriarch Theophilos III, along with the Holy Synod and the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre, the clergy and the faithful, have condemned the "heinous terrorist attack" during a service on Sunday carried out by two Israeli radicals. The attack targeted the Church of Gethsemane in the occupied city of Jerusalem, where the Tomb of the Virgin Mary lies.
In a statement issued yesterday, the Patriarchate also denounced the attempt to cause physical harm to Archbishop Joachim, who was leading the service, as well as the attack on one of the priests in the church. This was, it said, an "atrocious crime" at the time of Lent preparations before Easter and its traditional rituals. Holy Light Saturday has become a marker of seasonal suffering for Christians as a result of physical restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities to prevent them from reaching the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to exercise their God-given right to worship.
The Patriarchate stressed that terrorist attacks by radical Israeli groups targeting churches, cemeteries and Christian properties, in addition to physical and verbal abuse against Christian clergy, have become almost a daily occurrence that evidently increases in intensity during Christian holidays. "This dismal situation hasn't drawn any appropriate reaction, locally or internationally, despite appeals, requests and protests made by the Churches of the Holy Land."
Attacks on Christian holy sites, properties, heritage and identity constitute a violation of international law, it pointed out. The law calls explicitly for the protection of religious sites in Jerusalem and emphasises the need to respect the basic human right to worship freely. "This attack on the Church of the Tomb of Virgin Mary in Jerusalem is an atrocious terrorist crime that cannot be justified under any circumstances."
The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate called upon the international community to intervene immediately to provide security and protection to the Christians of Jerusalem and their holy places, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which are being subjected to deplorable violations and attacks at the hands of radical Israeli groups. It also demanded that the necessary legal steps be taken against all of those involved in terrorist crimes against any holy site.
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