After 3 days of closure, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher reopened Wednesday, February 28th at 4:00 am, for its normal hours of operation.
Inside the basilica, the representatives of the 3 communities in charge of The Holy sepulcher were awaiting the happy event. Fr. Zacheusz Drazek, OFM, President of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, shared, "I am very happy that they decided to reopen the door. Our daily life has been normal during these days. We celebrated all the liturgies, even within closed doors; we officiated even at night. It was very quiet, I can not remember ever celebrating in silence. But thank God, we can now welcome the pilgrims.”
The first groups arrived at the first light of dawn. Br. Sinisa Srebrenovic, OFM, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, said, "Certainly, it was sad to see the church without pilgrims. But seeing joyful people coming in, reminds us of the joy of the Resurrection.”
Jordan, an American pilgrim from Georgia, remembered, "We tried Sunday, we came back yesterday, but the doors were closed and people were praying outside; we were just very disappointed that we could not enter. We are really grateful that they talked about it and that they opened the doors today.”
"Thank God: all our prayers were answered ... thank goodness!" Rejoiced an Italian pilgrim, Giuseppina.
The doors of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher were closed on the morning of Sunday, February 25. It was a protest carried out by the three communities in charge of the basilica: the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, the Custody of the Holy Land, and the Armenian Patriarchate. The protest was against the latest bill proposed by the Israeli government on Church property, as well as the recent tax measures proposed by the Municipality of Jerusalem.
On the afternoon of February 27, the Israeli Prime Minister's office issued an official statement that government chief Benjamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat will set up a technical commission to negotiate with representatives of the Churches.
The same evening the churches responded with a new statement:
"We, the leaders of the Churches in charge of the Holy Sepulcher and the Status Quo that governs the different Christian holy places in Jerusalem thank God for the statement issued today by Prime Minister Netanyahu; we express our gratitude to all those who worked tirelessly to support the Christian presence in Jerusalem and to defend the Status Quo.”
"Following these recent developments, we announce that the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which is the site of the crucifixion of Our Lord and also of His Resurrection, will be reopened to the pilgrims.”