Christianity's 'Holiest Site' May Close Over Unpaid Bills

Water company says Jerusalem church owes it $2.1M
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 3, 2012 5:25 PM CDT
Christian pilgrims hold candles at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre during the ceremony of the Holy Fire in Jerusalem's Old City, Saturday, April 14, 2012.   (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
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(Newser) – Can we call this an unholy water dispute? The Greek Orthodox Church is threatening to shut down the Church of the Holy Sepulchre—the most revered site in Christendom—over unpaid water bills, the AFP reports. An Israeli water company says the church owes $2.1 million in back bills, but church officials contend that the site of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection was always exempt from paying for its water.

So the Greek Orthodox church is protesting to Israeli officials while the Holy Sepulchre's bank accounts remain frozen, leaving other bills unpaid and forcing priests to work for free. But "it's not a matter of money," says the president of the National Christian Coalition in the Holy Land. "It’s a change in the status quo that has protected the church for hundreds of years, it’s a way to pressure the churches and to introduce new Israeli-designed measures." (Read more Jerusalem stories.)

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