UOC-MP Offers Material Aid to Patriarch of Jerusalem to Prevent Closure
8 November 2012
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
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.