Report: Bank account of Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem seized

(JTA) — The Israeli bank account of the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem was seized because of unpaid water bills, an Israeli newspaper reported.

Hagihon, an independent corporation established by the municipality of Jerusalem, imposed the seizure 10 days ago over a $2.5 million debt accumulated at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is under the church’s stewardship, according to a Maariv report on Friday.

Theophilos III, the Greek church’s patriarch, is planning to write to President Obama and other world leaders to protest the seizure, the report said.

The municipality of Jerusalem has traditionally waived payment on water by the church out of recognition of its immense significance to countless of Christians all over the world and the tourist traffic it brings, the report by investigative journalist Kalman Liebskind said.

The first demand for payment came in 2004 and was ignored by the church authorities. Negotiations reached a deadlock, and Hagihon filed for repossession of the church’s assets.

The Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, which is headquartered at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, has been unable to pay salaries to its clergymen and utilities because of the freeze, the report said. 

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is said to contain the place where Jesus was buried.

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