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Holy Land: Palestinian government. Orthodox Easter will not be a holiday. Father Khader (parish priest of Ramallah) to SIR, “inexplicable decision”

Sunday, April 8th, the day on which Orthodox Easter is celebrated, will not be a holiday in Palestine. The decision taken by the Palestinian government, led by prime minister Rami Hamdallah, is arousing “discontent and concern, not only among Christian and Catholic devotees, but also amidst many Muslims”. It was revealed to SIR by father Jamal Khader, priest of the Latin parish of the “Holy Family” in the Palestinian capital, Ramallah. “In the last few years – the priest explains –, Easter used to be a national holiday, so all Palestinians could have a day off. This year, the government inexplicably repealed the decision, and one wonders why it did that. This is something new that is arousing resentment and even concern. We actually fear that such decision may be the first in a long list and that it may herald a change of route for the government in its relationships with Christians”. Such concern is shared by the Catholic devotees living in Palestine. “As is known – the parish priest states –, here in Palestine Catholics and Orthodox devotees celebrate Christmas (December 25th) and Easter together, according to the Gregorian calendar for the Birth of Jesus and according to the Julian calendar for Resurrection. Today is Good Friday for us. Now, we will have to ask for a day’s leave if we want to celebrate”. From what SIR learnt from other local sources, “the Council of Churches of Ramallah asked the prime minister to have an urgent meeting to discuss the matter but has not received a definite answer yet”. The fear is that the reason behind Hamdallah’s government’s decision may be “the small number of Christians living in Palestine, even if they have been deeply rooted here for two thousand years”. Surprise and disappointment have also been expressed by the Orthodox Church of Ramallah, which points out that the prime minister did not make his wishes to Christians. Hopefully, from next year Easter will be considered a holiday for all Palestinians again.

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