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Church of the Holy Sepulchre to reopen as Israel drops tax collection plan

Holy Sepulchre
GALI TIBBON / AFP
A pilgrim prays outside the closed gate of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City.
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Christian leaders had closed the holy site in protest of new tax assessment on church properties

Christian leaders in Jerusalem announced that they will reopen the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which they had shuttered as a protest against a plan to tax properties owned by Christian churches, according to U.S. News and World Report.

The announcement came shortly after Israeli officials said that they would suspend the tax collection plan.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office had released a statement on Tuesday morning saying that officials were putting together a negotiating team to “formulate a solution” with church officials, and that “as a result, the Jerusalem Municipality is suspending the collection actions it has taken in recent weeks.”

The statement from Christian leaders said “the churches look forward to engage” with the team to ensure Jerusalem “remains a place where the three monotheistic faiths may live and thrive together.”

As the place where Jesus died and was resurrected, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, is the holiest site in Christianity. Leaders of the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox , and denominations announced on Sunday that they were closing the church to protest a new tax on church-owned properties.

Thousands of pilgrims and tourists who came to visit the church on Sunday were locked out.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said that houses of worship would not be affected by the new tax on religious properties, according to an AP report.

“As the mayor of the city of Jerusalem, my goal and role is to make sure people pay their taxes,” he said. “We have no negative or bad intentions here.”

At issue was the city of Jerusalem’s effort to charge the churches back taxes for properties not used for worship. According to a report in the Times of Israel, the churches owed about $186.3 million on commercial operations not related to houses of worship.

 

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