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Update: Christian leaders reopen Church of the Holy Sepulchre after ‘emergency’

“For us, the important thing is that the measures taken against the churches have been suspended,” Father Grenier said.

He said the measures could have been potentially more damaging for the smaller churches, such as the Ethiopian and Syriac churches, and some Catholic religious congregations would have had to close some of their institutions if the measures had been carried out.

“We are not a business. If we had to pay the bills, of course, we could not keep all our activities. Our schools don’t make a profit, and if you add having to pay the taxes, we would not be able to maintain them,” he said.

Earlier in February, some political commentators suggested that the threat to impose taxes on church property was a ploy by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to try to get more funding for his city from the Ministry of Finance. Prior to this crisis, he had urged municipal workers to go on strike, leaving the city buried in garbage in an attempt to get more funds.

The church leaders’ closing of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre during Lent, close to Easter, the busiest time for pilgrims, drew international attention and condemnation.

However, in a Feb. 28 statement, David Nekrutman, executive director of The Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, chastised the church leaders for having likened the recent legislative bill to those enacted by Nazi Germany against the Jews.

“These remarks are extremely offensive and an apology from them is warranted,” he said. He also condemned what he said were the false accusations of a systematic campaign of abuse against churches and Christians.

“Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Christians and believers of all faiths have full freedom of religion and worship,” he said.

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