Suspect arrested for arson at Russian Orthodox Church of Ascension in Jerusalem

Police arrested one man on Wednesday on suspicion of breaking into and trying to set on fire a holy Orthodox church in Jerusalem earlier in the day, reports The Times of Israel.

Police confirmed that the church door had been broken, after a guard at the Mt. of Olives Church of the Ascension of the Russian Spiritual Mission reported that the church had been broken into and suffered fire damage. Police also confirmed that the extensive soot indeed points to arson.

The church is dedicated to the Ascension of Christ, which occurred forty days after His holy Pascha on the Mt. of Olives, although there is another church 650 feet to the west that is also considered by some the place of the Lord’s return to Heaven.

Police have stated that they do not believe the attack was religiously motivated, but was simply “a local dispute,” between two families linked to the holy site, reports Agenzia Fides. The Church of the Ascension is one of four churches in the Holy Land that is shared between various communities, the others being the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the Basilica of the Resurrection in the Old City, and the Tomb of the Virgin in the Kidron Valley. The Ascension chapel is the only under the jurisdiction of the Muslim authority of the holy places.

The current church dates to the Crusaders period, built over a previous church destroyed by the Persians in 614.

Churches in the Holy Land have been frequently attacked in recent years, including the Church of the Dormition on Mt. Zion, which has been attacked on several occasions by vandals. In June 2015, the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes was seriously damage by Jewish extremists-arsonists.