The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem had its bank account frozen by the water company until the bill is paid. The Church has extensive and valuable property holdings in the Holy Land and maintains a headquarters in the ancient church.
The Israeli daily newspaper Maariv said that the Patriarchate was threatening to shut the doors of the church until the issue is resolved which would hurt the Israeli tourism industry.
The Church claims there has been an informal agreement with the Jerusalem Municipality that the Church would be exempt from paying the bill. The water company says that Israeli law does not permit the Jerusalem Municipality to make such an agreement.
Constantine the Great, the first Christian Roman Emperor, ordered the church built after his mother Queen Helena visited the site known as Golgotha and confirmed its significance. The Church was built in the 4th century AD.
The General Secretary of the Patriarchate, Archbishop of Constantina Aristarchos, had no comment on the Maariv report. He said that the Church would be happy to pay its bills going forward but the back debt posed a significant problem to the Church’s finances. He added that he had sent letters to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres about the issue.
The Archbishop said:
“We trust God and hope that people will help us.”
Talks have been ongoing between the sides for years. The water company said it has avoided taking steps to enforce payment to avoid damaging tourism to the site.
Do you think the Church of the Holy Sepulchre should be forced to pay it water bill?