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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre closed for second day

The building has been closed in protest against Israeli tax measures and a proposed property law

A Christian woman prays by the closed door of the main entrance of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem on February 26, 2018. Thomas Coex / AFP
A Christian woman prays by the closed door of the main entrance of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem on February 26, 2018. Thomas Coex / AFP

Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built at the site where Christians believe Jesus was buried, remained closed on Monday in protest at Israeli tax measures and a proposed property law.

Christian leaders took the rare step of closing the church, seen as the holiest site in Christianity, on Sunday at noon in a bid to pressure Israeli authorities into abandoning the measures.

They said the church, a major pilgrimage site, would be closed until further notice.

The church remained closed on Monday morning, with church officials saying it was not clear when it would reopen.

The Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Roman Catholic denominations share custody of the building.

The church is considered the holiest site in Christianity, built where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected, and is a major pilgrimage site.

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Read more:

Christians close doors of famous Jerusalem church to protest taxes

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Christian leaders have been angered over attempts by Israeli authorities in Jerusalem to enforce tax collection on church property they consider commercial, saying exemptions only apply to places of worship or religious teaching.

Separately, Christian leaders say legislation being considered by Israel's government would allow church property to be expropriated.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat says the city is due 650 million shekels (Dh684.5m) in uncollected taxes on church properties.

He has stressed that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and all other churches are exempt from the taxes, with the changes only affecting establishments like "hotels, halls and businesses" owned by the churches.

But Christian leaders say the measure jeopardises their ability to conduct their work, which includes not only religious but also social services to those in need.

A separate bill proposed by a member of the Israeli parliament would allow certain lands sold by the Greek Orthodox Church — a major landowner in Jerusalem — to be handed over to the Israel state, which would then compensate those who bought it from the church.