Churches: Jerusalem

Church Commissioners written question – answered on 8th March 2018.

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Photo of Eddie Hughes Eddie Hughes Conservative, Walsall North

To ask the right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, what discussions the Church of England has had with the leaders of other Christian Churches on the closure of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre has reopened following three days of closure which left pilgrims and visitors praying in the square outside. The dispute was over a new tax policy and proposed land expropriation law.

Officials from Church House and staff at Lambeth Palace were in regular contact with the Heads of Churches Group in the City of Jerusalem through Archbishop Suheil the Anglican Archbishop of Jerusalem as the events unfolded. On the 5th of March, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster wrote a joint letter to the Israeli Ambassador in the UK, to say that both Churches believed “the measures being pressed in Jerusalem and in the Knesset, were a clear and evident threat to the status quo and that this risked undermining prospects for peaceful coexistence between communities, at a time of already heightened tensions.” Specifically, that, “the new policy would cause serious damage to the Christian presence in Jerusalem, to Christian families, and to the Christian institutions, including hospitals and schools, which serve many of the poorest people, regardless of their background.”

The Church of England and the Roman Catholic Bishops Conference in England and Wales will continue to work closely together on issues relating to Israel and Palestine. Bishops from around the world make an annual joint visit to the Holy Land as part of the Holy Land Coordination Group. The Bishop of Southwark along with the Catholic Bishops will be hosting a meeting for all Members on the 15th May, 3-4pm in Committee Room 2A to discuss and feedback the findings of their visit.

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