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THE RESTORATION OF CHRIST’S TOMB, A VICTORY FOR PEACEFUL CHURCH RELATIONS

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TheChurch of the Holy Sepulchre, also called theChurch of the Resurrection  byOrthodox Christians, is a church in theChristian Quarter of theOld City of Jerusalem which contains some of the holiest Christian sites anywhere in the world. 

According to traditions dating back at least to the fourth century Jerusalem is where Jesus of Nazareth was circumcised, presented in the temple, where he drove out the money changers and was crucified at “Calvary” or “Golgotha”. Within the Church itself is where Jesus is said to have been buried and resurrected. The tomb is enclosed by the 18th-century shrine, called the Edicule (Aedicule). It took more than 10 years to build the original church though little remains of the structure that Emperor Constantine the Great consecrated on September 13, 335.

During recent construction, a series of tombs was discovered, including one many believe to be that of Joseph of Armithea, who prepared Jesus’s body for burial.

Restoration work on Jesus’s tomb began in May 2016 with the help of a number of benefactors. Since the beginning of March the work has been focused on the non-visible part of the tomb, including the deconstruction of the external scaffolding, the strengthening of the structure to prevent damage from seismic movements and to preserve the tomb in the event of an earthquake, such as the one that struck in 1927, which weakened the Edicule, the 18th-century shrine that encloses the tomb.

After an inauguration ceremony in the Basilica on Wednesday March 22nd visitors will be able to see the completed work, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem announced this week.

“The restoration of the tomb will be celebrated with an inauguration ceremony that will be a sign of unity, bringing together all of the communities, authorities and representatives of the Churches of the Holy Land, as well as many members of religious orders, faithful and benefactors”

The last restoration/strengthening work of the church was overseen by the British in 1947. They were unable to complete the project because there was no agreement between the Orthodox, Armenian and Franciscan communities, who all share custody of the Basilica. For the first time since the status quo of 1857, an agreement was finally reached by the three denominations, which was essential to the success of the restoration work.

Catholic Priest Father Dobromir Jasztal, custodial vicar of the Holy Land, commented:

“A historic moment for the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre and for our presence in the Holy Land”.

“As in all projects of this type, it was not possible to avoid some difficulties but nonetheless there was a good fraternal cooperation between the denominations”.

“We were always able to face and solve problems with fraternal cooperation. We hope that in the future, if needed, other projects can be planned, approved and carried out by the three communities, for the benefit of the Basilica.”

The success of the Holy Sepulchre project and the cooperation of the various stakeholders underlines the importance of the Jerusalem Holy Places Study which can hopefully further strengthen relationships in the city.