Anba Antonius, the Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of Jerusalem (C) with
number of Coptic monks at Deir Al-Sultan in Jerusalem (Photo: Courtesy of Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church spokesman Facebook page)
Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church issued a statement Wednesday refusing to answer claims made in a statement by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church on the disputed Deir Sultan Monastery in Jerusalem's Old City.
"Concerning the statement of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church regarding Deir Sultan Monastery, which was issued on 5 November 2018, we distance ourselves from answering what came in it, including unjust accusations, offensive insults and historical inaccuracies about the ownership and possession of Coptic Deir Sultan," the statement read.
The statement, however, listed the history of the dispute over the monastery in Israeli courts, referring to the Israeli Supreme Court's verdict on 16 March 1971 that was based on the Egyptian Orthodox Church's documents and concluded that Deir Sultan was owned by the Egyptian Orthodox Church.
"We thank the Lord that the Israeli Magistrate Court ruled on 28 October 2018 that the restoration works will be limited to inside Angel Mikhail Church in the places that needed restoration under the supervision of an engineer appointed by the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church," the statement read.
On 5 November, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church issued a statement claiming ownership of the disputed monastery and attacking the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church.
"The Copts have unbecomingly used rights that do not pertain to them, and illegal, counterfeit documentation in order to undermine [these] long-standing historical facts," said the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church statement, adding that in addition to "scriptural evidence," Ethiopian holdings in Jerusalem are facts recorded in the tax annals and proclamation records of those who ruled Jerusalem.
In late October, Israeli security forces assaulted Egyptian Coptic monks and arrested at least one during a protest against the restoration of Deir Sultan Monastery. The arrested monk was later released.
The monks were protesting peacefully against restoration work planned by the Israeli government at the monastery without the consent of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
Ownership of the 1,000-year-old monastery has been the source of a decades-long dispute.
The monastery, where Ethiopians have lived for decades, had been owned by the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church since the 7th century, according to Antonious.
Copts remained in control of the monastery until 1970 when Israeli authorities handed its control over to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church after police changed the monastery's locks and gave them the keys.
Numerous Israeli court rulings ordering that the monastery be returned to the Copts have not been enforced.