Sabeel petition: Freedom of Worship

Sabeel petition: Freedom of Worship

The Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, together with local Christian Organizations and community leaders, reject the restrictions on Christians gathering in and around their places of worship which the Israeli police claim will be necessary to ensure the safety of participants in this month’s Holy Fire ritual.

The Church of the Resurrection, also known, as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, is the site where Christians believe Jesus Christ was crucified, buried and resurrected on the third day. During the ceremony, the faithful witness a flame of fire that emerges from the empty tomb. The event takes place each year on the Saturday before the Orthodox Easter, which this year falls on April 24.

The Israeli police have demanded that only 1,000 people enter the Church of the Resurrection for the Holy Fire ritual, although it is customary for many thousands of worshipers to attend every year. The police has also said that only 500 people can enter the Old City and reach the courtyards of the Patriarchate and the roof overlooking the Church of the Resurrection.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate said in a statement. “Our communities have been exercising this divine right freely throughout the ages and different rulers, regardless of the circumstances that the Holy City went through in history.” ….“We affirm our strong and renewed commitment to our natural right to celebrate our holidays along with our communities, families and to participate together in prayers at our churches in the Old City of Jerusalem, including the basic right of all our communities to access the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and its vicinity during Easter festivities including Holy Light Saturday,”

The Church in Jerusalem states that having access to churches in the Old City, especially during the Easter holidays “has become increasingly difficult in recent years”, and “that there is no justification” for the additional restrictions put into place this year. The Patriarchate “affirms its explicit, clear and complete rejection of all restrictions,” and declares openly that they are “fed up with police restrictions on freedom to worship and with its unacceptable methods of dealing with the God given rights of Christians to practice rituals and have to access their holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem.”

We ask our international friends to support the decision of the Greek Orthodox patriarchate, by signing this petition and sharing it openly. The petition reads as follows:“We the undersigned support the decision of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem that it will not compromise its right to provide spiritual services in all Churches and Church squares. We also support its announcement that prayers will be held as usual by the Patriarchate and its priests, hoping that all believers are able to participate”