The work is expected to last up to a year, and be finished for Easter 2017. Pilgrims will still be able to visit and pray. Nothing was done to the aedicule for two centuries ago. The three Churches – Greek Orthodox, Latin and Armenian – will share the cost equally. Jordan’s King Abdullah II makes a donation.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – After 200 years and many mutual vetoes from the Churches in charge, experts have begun restoring the Holy Sepulchre. Scaffolding went up around the Aedicule that contains the Holy Sepulchre itself.
Pilgrims to the Holy Land have ben well aware of the fragility of the structure that contains the tomb where Jesus was laid and from which he rose, with the walls, marble and columns held together by an iron cage.
For many years, restoration proved impossible because the three Churches responsible for the holy place – Greek Orthodox, Latin Catholics and Armenian Apostolics – feared that work and its funding might alter the precarious balance that regulates their co-existence and use of the holy place.
Their decision to cooperate came after Israel's antiquities authority last year said the church was unsafe and might have to be closed.
This is the first work on the tomb since 1810, when the shrine was restored and given its current shape following a fire.
According to the those in charge of the restoration, the shrine is stable, but warped and needs cleanups after centuries of exposure to water, humidity, and candle smoke. The structure also needs to be held against possible earthquakes.
The work is expected to take up to 12 months, until Easter 2017. During that time, pilgrims will still be able to visit and pray at the site.
Athens’ National Technical University is supervising the renovation on behalf of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, with the approval of the other two Churches.
All three denominations have agreed to an equal share of the cost, estimated at about US$ 3.3 million. In addition, King Abdullah of Jordan has made a personal donation of US$ 100,000.
The Jordanian monarch still considers himself the guardian of Jerusalem’s holy sites even though East Jerusalem was seized by Israel in 1967.