14 June 2016
Tourists and Christian pilgrims visit the tomb where it is believed Christ was buried inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on 17 April. For the first time in 200 years, experts have begun a restoration of the Edicule of the Tomb. (photo: CNS/Jim Hollander, EPA)
For the first time in 200 years, experts have begun a restoration of the Edicule of the Tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus was laid to rest after his crucifixion.
The project, which began in early June, is expected to take up to one year to complete and will include sorely needed damage repair and reinforcement of the structure.
The work is being carried out by experts from the National Technical University of Athens.
The project came together when the three principal churches overseeing the tomb under the 19th-century Status Quo agreement overcame enduring differences in a place where rights over every section of the church has been jealously guarded for centuries.
The Status Quo agreement was put in place by the Ottoman rulers in 1852 and preserved the division of ownership and responsibilities of the various Christian holy sites. At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, it governs the responsibilities of the principal churches — Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Armenian Apostolic — as well as the Ethiopian, Syriac and Coptic churches.
“There wasn’t any friction on this issue,” said Franciscan Father Athanasius Macora, who is responsible for supervising the agreement on the part of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. “There was good chemistry between the three heads of the churches and they agreed to it right away.”
However, the term “right away” is relative as the heads of the principal churches first brought up the issue of a very conservative “consolidation” of the edicule in 2000.
The current Edicule of the Tomb was built by the Greek Orthodox community in 1810, two years after a devastating fire. It has been encased in metal scaffolding since the
British Mandate period in the mid-20th century because of concern for its stability.
Though many church-connected professionals have expressed concern over the structure since 2000, it took the shutting down of the tomb for four hours by the Israeli Police in February 2015 because of safety concerns — a blatant violation of the Status Quo agreement — to get the churches to act on their earlier discussions. An agreement to carry out the work on the tomb was signed in March.
“The idea is to strengthen the structure and try to bring to get it back to its pristine state,” Father Macora said. “It is important that the work goes well. If all goes well, it will enhance the relationship (among the churches). If it doesn’t go well, it will not help their relationship.”
The tomb today is surrounded by a white perimeter wall, but the work on its exterior walls is taking place in the evening so pilgrims can continue to visit the interior of the tomb, he said.
All three churches are contributing to pay the $3.4 million price tag for the project. Jordanian King Abdullah also made a personal contribution for the restoration. Until 1967, the Old City of Jerusalem, where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is located, was under Jordanian control and the king continues to play a role in the safe guarding of Christian and Muslim holy sites.
“The tomb is the heart of the shrine. It is the most important reason why people are coming to visit the church and ... everyone knew the (the restoration) needed to be done,” Father Macora said. “There is no reason it could not be done. It is important that the work be done in a way which respects the rights of other communities.”
He noted that despite the often-cited disputes among the churches, relations have improved since the 1960’s and though they have reached a plateau since then, fewer conflicts emerge today.
“There have been sporadic outbreaks and there will be outbreaks in the future, but they are significantly less than in the past,” Father Macora said.
Cleaning work has also been undertaken on some of the mosaics in the church and work remains to be done on the floor around the tomb, which cannot begin until the restoration of the tomb is complete, he said.
This is not the first time the three denominations came together for a restoration project. In 1997, they cooperated to restore and decorate the great dome above the tomb with the financial support of the late Catholic philanthropists George and Marie Doty, seemingly ushering in a new era of cooperation.
Three years ago in Bethlehem, restoration and renovation work also began at the Church of the Nativity with the Palestinian Authority given the role of intermediary between the churches. The wooden roof of the church has been repaired and work is underway on wall mosaics.
13 June 2016
Tamás Fekete tends to in his paprika field in Homokmégy, Hungary. Read more about the role of this staple of Hungarian cuisine in the pages of the September 2005 edition of ONE. (photo: Jacqueline Ruyak)
9 June 2016
Tags: Cultural Identity Farming/Agriculture Hungary Cuisine
Anna Valavanal (left) and her sister, Irin, visit the Deivadan sisters and residents in Thankamany, India. Read about the Fearless Grace of the Deivadan Sisters in the July 2010 edition of ONE.
(photo: Peter Lemieux)
8 June 2016
Iraqi refugee women who fled ISIS in their homeland pose for a photo in Amman, Jordan, in early June. The Chaldean Catholic women sent the hand-sewn mantle to Pope Francis and asked him to pray for them and for peace in their country.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Amman)
Iraqi refugee women who fled Islamic State group violence in their homeland have appealed to Pope Francis for help, sending a hand-sewn mantle and imploring him to pray for them and for peace in their country.
The ivory colored mantle with an oriental yellow-gold braid was designed and sewn by more than a dozen Chaldean Catholic women, who as refugees are unable to work in Jordan.
The papal mantle and an accompanying letter were sent to the pontiff via diplomatic pouch from the apostolic nunciature in Amman, the Jordanian capital, in early June and was expected to arrive at the Vatican by mid-month.
“One of the most precious items is the vestment of a priest, bishop or pope serving at the altar during the most sacred of times, the Mass,” said the Rev. Rifat Bader, director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Amman.
“This has been made with hearts of love and with a special touch by refugees who suffered, forced to flee to maintain their Christian faith,” Father Bader told Catholic News Service. "The design uses the Arabic checkered ‘keffiyeh’ of the region, but made with yellow threads, resembling gold, the color of the Vatican.”
“Oh, Holy Father, we appeal to you to mention us in your prayers and to mention our country, Iraq, so that the Lord would reinstate peace there and in all the countries that seek peace, protect people from the evil and injustices prevailing in the world, and lead the sinners — who conduct evil deeds — into the right path in life. May the Lord touch their hearts with love and mercy,” said the refugees’ letter accompanying the mantle.
“From this basis, we would like to present to you this mantle in the hope that you would wear it when you celebrate Holy Mass and pray for us. It is a symbol of our love to you and a testimony of our appreciation for you,” said the letter made available to CNS.
The women wrote that they sewed the mantle from the “remains of altar cloths,” explaining that they wanted to produce “something useful and beautiful to glorify the Lord from whatever is rejected and detested" by the militants.
The mantle is one of the first products of the Rafidian or Mespotamian project begun on behalf of the refugees by an Italian priest, the Rev. Mario Cornioli, the Rev. Zaid Habbaba of the Chaldean Catholic Church and the Salesian Sisters with support of the nunciature in Amman. Italian women living in Amman also assisted.
Father Cornioli, sent by the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem to work with Iraqi refugees in Jordan, said the women wanted to create a special gift for Pope Francis because of they understand he feels “very near” to them. They also want to remind him of their “difficult situation” after being forced to flee the Islamic State group in 2014 after being told renounce their Christian faith, join the militants, pay a protection tax or be killed, he said.
The women learned to sew in Jordan, opening a new possibilities for them, Father Cornioli said. “They have once again found their smiles while being and working together,” he said.
The priest said that the project has grown with the women sewing items to be sold in Italy. “This helps them to earn some money and so they can help themselves and their families,” Father Cornioli explained, citing examples of Iraqi Christian refugees with dwindling funds after quickly leaving their homes with few possessions.
“Now they are in Jordan with a something that gives them dignity, a valuable skill which perhaps can be useful if they are resettled in another country,” Father Cornioli said.
7 June 2016
Women from Manhari, Egypt, weave religious articles in a program supported by the eparchy. For a closer look at the challenges facing some Christians in that corner of the world, read Upper Egypt’s Copts in the July-August 2002 edition of our magazine. (photo: Sean Sprague)
6 June 2016
Students in Ethiopia examine their report cards for their final grades and evaluations for the year. To read more about schools in Addis Ababa, check out It’s Not Just Talk and Chalk from the Summer 2013 edition of ONE. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
3 June 2016
The Rev. Joaqim Unfal tends to a garden at Mar Evgin Monastery, a fourth-century Syriac Orthodox monastery in the mountains of Tur Abdin, Turkey. To learn more about the Christians who have returned to this ancient homeland, read Coming Home in the Winter 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Don Duncan)
2 June 2016
Tags: Cultural Identity Turkey Monastery Syriac Christians
Iraqi Assyro-Chaldean refugees celebrate the Divine Liturgy in Mar Elias Church in Beirut. To learn more about Iraqi Christians in Lebanon and the challenges they face, read In Limbo in Lebanon from the Autumn 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi)
1 June 2016
Tags: Lebanon Iraqi Christians Iraqi Refugees Chaldean Church
Ivlita Kuchaidze enjoys the simple pleasure of reading in a warm environment at the Caritas Georgia Harmony Day Center. To learn more about the life of this 93-year-old World War II battlefield nurse, read A Survivor Speaks, from the Spring 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: Molly Corso)
31 May 2016
Tags: Georgia Caring for the Elderly
Students at Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv walk through an academic building. To learn more about this remarkable school and the impact it is having, read Where Change Is on the Curriculum in the Spring 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: Petro Zadorozhnyy)
Tags: Ukraine Education Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Catholic education