Fw: Jerusalem Patriarchate financial crisis
'We can't even pay for toilet paper': Church of the Holy Sepulchre in financial crisis over £1.4m unpaid bill to Jerusalem water firm
* Jerusalem Old City church said to be site of Christ's crucifixion and burial
* ButGreek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem has its bank account frozen
* Church managers say debt is an issue and Netanyahuhas been sent letter
By Mark Duell
One of the holiest sites in the Christian faith is battling a financial crisis and could even face closure.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is said to be the site of Jesus Christ's crucifixion and burial, is struggling with a 9million shekel (£1.4million) unpaid bill owed to the Jerusalem water company.
The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem - which holds valuable Holy Land property and has a headquarters in the ancient church - has had its bank account frozen, water company Hagihon said.
The Patriarchate was threatening a protest of shutting the doors of the church, which is a major pilgrimage site for millions of tourists, a report in Israeli newspaper Maariv said today.
'The church is completely paralysed,' a Patriarchate official told Maariv, reported the Guardian. 'We can't pay for toilet paper. Nothing. Hagihon has declared war on us.'
The church lies deep inside Jerusalem's Old City walls. It encompasses Golgotha, or Calvary, where Jesus is believed to have been crucified and the tomb where he was buried and resurrected.
A church was first built there in the 4th century under Roman emperor Constantine the Great, whose mother, Queen Helena, had visited the site and identified it as the place of Jesus's resurrection.
The General Secretary of the Patriarchate, Archbishop of Constantina Aristarchos, had no comment on the Maariv report.
He said the church was willing to pay water bills from now on, but that the accumulated debt, stemming back years, would be problematic.
‘We trust God and hope that people will help us,’ he said, adding that the Patriarchate has sent letters to Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
'The church is completely paralysed. We can't pay for toilet paper. Nothing. Hagihon has declared war on us'
Greek Orthodox Patriarchate official
Maariv said that for decades there had been a tacit agreement between the church and a former mayor of Jerusalem, exempting the Patriarchate from paying for water piped to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
But a spokesman for Hagihon said the law did not permit the company to make such exemptions. Talks with the Patriarchate have been going on for years, he said.
The company had refrained from taking lawful enforcement steps, such as shutting the water off at the church, in order not to disrupt prayers and tourist activity at the site.
The Patriarchate is jointly responsible for managing the church with other Christian denominations.
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