On Sunday morning, Israeli police rushed into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, one of the holiest sites in Christianity, to break up a confrontation between Greek and Armenian Orthodox monks. The site is shared by a host of different Christian orders, including Greek and Armenian Orthodox, Coptic, Ethiopian and Syrian Orthodox and Roman Catholic. The following statement was issued by the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem Monday regarding the incident.
Violation of Armenian Status Quo Rights in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Armenian Orthodox Feast of the Discovery of the Holy Cross
On Sunday, November 9, on the Armenian Orthodox Feast of the Discovery of the Holy Cross, the Greek Orthodox attempted, once again and contrary to Status Quo provisions, to place a Greek monk inside the Edicule, a vestibule that lies just outside the entryway to the Tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre during the Armenian Solemn Procession.
Despite several written protests by the Armenian Patriarchate, numerous attempts to peacefully resolve this conflict at Status Quo Committee meetings and despite the most recent negotiations with the Director of the Christian Affairs Department of the Interior Ministry, Mr. Cesar Marjieh, and also with the Commander of the Police of the Old City Division, Commander Doron Yedid, the Armenian Solemn Procession at the Holy Sepulchre Church was once again disrupted.
Armenian monks forbade the Greek monk from entering the Edicule. Dozens of Greek monks who had gathered prior to the Solemn Procession of the Armenia’s, forcibly attempted to enter the Edicule. Police intervened and formed a barrier between the Greeks and the Armenia’s in front of the Edicule. The Greek monks attacked the Armenian priests and seminarians resulting in scuffles between the two sides thus disrupting the Armenian Procession. The police intervened and detained an Armenian monk, who was released today.
The presence of a Greek monk inside the Edicule is a serious violation of the Status Quo terms governing the Holy Places, over which the Armenia’s, Latins and Greek Orthodox share equal rights of custodianship. The Armenian Patriarchate has made its position clear that on the Feast of the Holy Cross, the 1st Sunday of Great Lent, Palm Sunday and Holy Fire Saturday, when they are in possession of the Holy Tomb, the Greeks should refrain from placing their monk inside the Edicule.
The rights of the Armenian Orthodox in the Holy Places have been granted in a Firman, Al Hijrah 1245 (1829). It stipulates that “no interference or intervention should ever be allowed to occur in respect of the celebration of mass and other processions of the [Armenian] community.”
The Armenian Patriarchate strongly protests against this violation of its centuries old rights in the Church of Holy Sepulchre by the Greek Orthodox Church, and against the aggression of the Greek monks during the Armenian Orthodox Feast of the Discovery of the Holy Cross.