News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

Israeli PM Netanyahu bows to Christian leaders over Church of Holy Sepulchre

Church leaders in front of the Church of Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem

Israel on Tuesday suspended tax measures and other actions that led to the rare closure of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built at what is seen as the holiest site in Christianity.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the suspension in a statement.

Christian leaders who have kept Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre closed since Sunday over the measures have yet to respond to the decision.

The Christian leaders earlier today announced indefinite closure of the church.

Leaders of the two largest Christian denominations in Jerusalem said the Church will remain closed indefinitely to protest an Israeli attempt to tax their properties in the holy city.

Both Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic representatives said they were blindsided by the Israeli-run Jerusalem municipality’s recent decision to begin taxing them.

They accused the mayor, Nir Barkat, of disrupting a longstanding and fragile status quo with Palestinian Christians.

Anna Koulouris, an official in the chief secretariat’s office of the Greek Patriarchate, said that all major Christian denominations were united in their opposition to the Israeli move.

“They are serious,” she said. “They really want to see something change before they think about reopening the doors.”

Barkat has said the order does not affect houses of worship, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and only applies to what he calls “commercial properties” owned by the churches, including hotels and office space.

He said the churches have debts of roughly $185 million.