JERUSALEM, Monday, April 11, 2022 (WAFA) - The Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem affirmed “its strong and renewed commitment to our natural right to celebrate our holidays along with our congregation, our families and to participate together in prayers at our churches in the Old City of Jerusalem, including the basic right of all our church members to access the Church of Holy Sepulchre and its vicinity during Easter festivities, including Holy Fire Saturday.
“This divine right has been exercised freely by our congregations throughout the ages and different rulings, rulers, and circumstances that the Holy City went through in history, it said in a statement.
The Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem congratulated its congregations and all the people of the Holy Land on both sides of the Jordan River on the occasion of Easter and Holy Fire Saturday.
For many years, participating in prayers and even having access to churches in the Old City, especially during Easter holidays, has become very difficult for our congregations and our people in general, due to police unilaterally enforced restrictions and violence against believers who insist on exercising their natural divine right to worship, said the statement.
Previously, we had cooperated with different Christian bodies and leaders to bring our case to the international, domestic, and judicial levels, and we also coordinated with the police themselves, with the aim of preventing the police from continuing their unacceptable practices, but unfortunately, the promises were great and what actually took place on the ground was not even remotely close to those promises, it added.
“Instead of reversing its habitual unacceptable practices on Easter and Holy Fire Saturday, the police have recently informed the Patriarchate of additional new unilateral measures that increase restrictions on Holy Fire Saturday, to the effect that the police will only allow one thousand people to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on this great day, although it is customary to many thousands of worshippers to enter the church in celebration on that day.”
Furthermore, the police said that they will allow only five hundred people to enter the Old City and reach the Patriarchate yards and the overlooking roof of the Holy Sepulchre Church.
“The Patriarchate believes that there is no justification for these additional unjust restrictions, and affirms its explicit, clear, and complete rejection of all restrictions. The Patriarchate is 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,” said the statement.
Accordingly, the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem has decided, by the power of the Lord, that it will not compromise its right to provide spiritual services in all churches and squares.
It also announced that prayers will be held as usual by the Patriarchate and its priests, hoping that believers are able to participate.
“This position of the Patriarchate stems from the basis of divine right, heritage, and history. The police must stop imposing restrictions and violence that, unfortunately, have become part of our sacred ceremonies. We also urge our congregations to uphold our historical heritage through participating in the rituals and celebrations of Easter and Holy Fire Saturday this year in the Church of Holy Sepulchre and its vicinity.”