There were plenty of opportunities – more honorable ones – over the past decade to shut the Holy Land’s major Christian pilgrimage sites in protest
It was a protest long overdue – and one that produced rapid results.
On Sunday, for the first time in living memory, Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre slammed shut its doors to worshippers and tourists. In justifying the closure of the site where it is believed Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected, Church leaders accused Israel of launching a “systematic and unprecedented attack against Christians in the Holy Land”.
By Wednesday the church had reopened after Israel, bombarded with bad publicity, appeared to climb down.
Shuttering the church had threatened economic damage too. More than a quarter of Israel’s nearly 4 million visitors each year are Christian pilgrims. They and many other tourists come primarily to follow in the footsteps of Jesus – and the Holy Sepulchre is top of their sightseeing list.
The churches are right that the survival of a meaningful Palestinian Christian presence in the Holy Land hangs in the balance. Christians now comprise just 10 per cent of the large Palestinian minority in Israel – or about 2 per cent of Israel’s total population.
In the Palestinian territories, which are under belligerent Israeli occupation, Christian numbers have similarly plummeted.
But however serious the problem, the joint statement from Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian…