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Church of the Holy Sepulchre may close over water bill


Jerusalem (CathNews): The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem has warned that it may shut its doors to pilgrims in protest over a dispute with Hagihon, an Israeli water company, according to a November 2 report from the BBC. At the company’s request, the church’s accounts have been frozen over an unpaid US$2.3 million ($17.8 million) bill.

The dispute has left hundreds of priests, monks and teachers unpaid. The church has traditionally not been charged for water, but Hagihon says it is owed money for the past 15 years. In 2004, the company sent a demand note for 3.7m shekels, or US$950,000 ($7.36 million), backdated to when the company took over the water supply in the late 1990s.

However, according to the Israeli newspaper Maariv, there was a tacit agreement between the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem which, along with the Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate and the Roman Catholic Franciscan Custos, is jointly responsible for the administration of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and a former mayor of Jerusalem exempting the church from water bills.

According to the BBC, Patriarch Theophilos III of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, told Maariv, “If nothing changes we intend to announce... for the first time in centuries, that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is closed.”


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