Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Row Over Water Bill

And their bank account blocked:

Standoff over unpaid water bill could result in closure of revered church believed to be site of Jesus’s crucifixion and burial.

The Guardian:

One of the most venerated sites in the Christian faith, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, buried and resurrected, is facing a financial crisis over an unpaid water bill in a row that could result in its closure.

The church, which attracts more than 1 million pilgrims each year, has been issued with a 9m shekel (£1.5m) water bill, backdated 15 years to when the supply was taken over by a new company, Hagihon.

As a result of the church’s failure to pay, Hagihon has secured the freezing of the bank account of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, which is jointly responsible for the church’s administration.

The standoff was confirmed by the spokesman for Theophilos III, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, following a report in the Israeli paper Maariv. “It is completely true,” Issa Musaleh told the Guardian. “They have frozen our account. This is a flagrant act against the church.”

According to Maariv, the move has resulted in standing orders being rejected and cheques bouncing. Services which have been affected include telephones, internet and electricity, as well as companies supplying food.

“The church is completely paralysed. We can’t pay for toilet paper. Nothing. Hagihon has declared war on us,” a Patriarchate official told Maariv…

Read on here.

Thousands of Christian pilgrims and tourists jostle each day inside the gloomily lit spaces beneath the church’s dome. Despite the chaotic queues for the most revered sites within the church and the cacophony of chanting priests, tour guides and camera-clicking tourists, for many it is a deeply emotional and spiritual experience.

The original church was built on the site of Jesus’s crucifixion, which was then outside the city walls, in the fourth century.



4 thoughts on “Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Row Over Water Bill

  1. I’m hard-pressed to imagine how a water bill (even over 15 years) would reach that rather amazing amount. I’ve taken pilgrims there many times, and unless there are hidden facilities someplace, I’ve not seen much available running water in that building.

  2. What is wrong with these people? Unpaid water bills, fighting monks… With so many people going in, you’d think they would have collected money for the upkeep of the place. Or is it just the Greeks lording it over everyone else?

    What a sad state for Christianity! No doubt, the Apostles and saints who love Jesus Christ would have their palms over their faces over this; Why not just let these bearded gentlemen use what they used prior to the existence of plumbing.

    1. One of the problems that the monks here have to handle is that the eye of the world is fixed upon them, and every disagreement, every argument, every thwack round the head with a broom becomes a topic for debate around the world. Were I subjected to those pressures I might very well go crazy every now and then too.

      The Greeks aren’t “lording it” over anyone. Read the linked article. The church has always enjoyed the benefit of free water. A private company took over from the state in the late 1990s. In 2004 it sent the church a bill for 3.7 million shekels – several years after it had taken over responsibility. The Greeks who manage that part of the church assumed that it was a mistake (and that assumption was certainly a mistake) as they had never before been asked to pay for water, and the bill was not followed up with any further demands for payment. Now, 8 years after that bill, they have sent another demand for 9 million shekels, and have had a civil order made to freeze the church bank account until it is paid.

      I have read elsewhere (and I can’t find the link, but I will post it when I can) that the Greek Patriarchate came to an arrangement where the demand would be cancelled but the church would thereafter pay for water. After this agreement was reached, the water company initiated the civil action – thereby rendering the agreement moot. The other Christian churches who share the management of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are reported to be unanimous in their support of the Greek stance in this instance.

      I agree with Fr Phillips though. I’ve been there, and I am not entirely sure how they get through that much water! Something fishy is going on.

      1. When I was first there, I remember struggling to find the loo, and when I eventually did, I glad to see that I never had to pay a dollar to use the facility (unlike some of the other Holy Sites, and yes, Franciscans, I’m looking at you) .

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