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Church at Jesus’ burial site reopens after 3-day protest

Christian pilgrims prayering at the closed doors to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in the Old City quarter of Jerusalem, yesterday. Heads of the Christian Churches in Jerusalem announced on Sunday the closure of the church until further notice – EPA pic, February 28, 2018.

Christian leaders in Jerusalem have agreed to reopen the Church said to be situated at Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection site after Israeli authorities suspended a plan to impose taxes on church properties in the holy city.

Major denominations, including the Roman Catholic, Armenian and Greek Orthodox churches, said the Church of the Holy Sepulchre would reopen early Wednesday after it was shut for three days following a dispute with the Jerusalem municipality over tax matters and a government bill relating to land belonging to the church.

The move by authorities to close the building attracted media attention, since it is one of the most visited sites in the Holy Land, and the closure came just weeks before the busy Easter season.

Washington Post reported Tuesday evening that Jerusalem’s mayor suspended the plan to collect taxes from churches, easing a crisis that had led to a three-day closure of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

In an announcement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said he and Jerusalem Mayor, Nir Barkat had formed a team to “formulate a solution” to the matter. The team will negotiate with church officials.

Mayor Nir Birkat told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he wants to negotiate “in the right way.” He declined to identify the third party, although earlier revealed that churches owed more than NIS 650 million ($186.3 million) on their commercial operations.

The closure — which seemed to be the longest since at least 1990 — had left thousands of pilgrims and tourists seeking to visit locked outside.

“We prayed in front of the doors every day since Sunday,” Francois-Roch Ferlet, a 29-year-old visiting with a group of 50 people from France told Daily Mail, standing near the ornate shrine encasing the traditional site of Jesus’s tomb inside the church.

They were due to leave later on Wednesday and were relieved they were able to visit.

Daily Mail says in 1990, Christian sites including the Holy Sepulchre were closed for a day to protest the installation of Jewish settlers near the church.

Further more, they were again shut for two days in 1999 to protest at the planned construction of a mosque near Nazareth’s Church of the Annunciation, where tradition holds the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary she was to become the mother of Jesus.

By Paul W Dennis.

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