28 November, 2015 AsiaNews.it Twitter AsiaNews.it Facebook            

Help AsiaNews | About us | P.I.M.E. | | RssNewsletter | Mobile

mediazioni e arbitrati, risoluzione alternativa delle controversie e servizi di mediazione e arbitrato

e-mail this to a friend printable version

» 07/02/2012
Church of the Nativity in UNESCO; Mount Tabor a "national park". It's time to save the Holy Places
by Joshua Lapide
The inclusion of the Nativity in the list of "World Heritage sites" is welcomed by Catholics because the Church is in urgent need of restoration, so far hampered by the Orthodox community. Importance of ensuring its "architectural integrity" to avoid its ruin, similar to that taking place in the Holy Sepulchre with the construction of the Katholicon. Also important to monitor Israeli attempts to place the holy sites in Galilee "under the State protection".

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - The inclusion of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem among "World Heritage sites" by UNESCO, once again focuses attention on the problems and precariousness of the Holy Places, a result of the often unjust interference of Christian communities themselves and the Israeli and Palestinian authorities.

Let us begin with the Church of the Nativity. The Custodian of the Holy Land, Fr. Pizzaballa, expressed cautious optimism on the issue. But Christians - especially Catholics - are less cautious, and openly welcome the UNESCO recognition. In this way, in fact, the Palestinian Authority will have the possibility to launch an international campaign to collect much needed funds for the restoration and repair of the roof above the basilica, which needs an urgent intervention.

The Church of the Nativity - with that of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and the crypt of the tomb of Mary at the foot of the Mount of Olives - are subject to an international legal norm known as the "status quo". It does not deed the Catholic Church or other Christian communities the title of ownership of the Basilica. Rather, it comprises a complex distribution of rights of possession, use, management, the observance of which is guaranteed by the State. They also have a duty to intervene to enforce the status quo if there is concern over violations; to ensure the soundness and practicability of the buildings where there is no unanimity among the mainline churches present there. These churches are: the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land (which, by papal mandate, represents the Catholic Church), the Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

Up to now, in fact the Greek-orthodox have thwarted any joint intervention to repair the roof of the Basilica, of which there is an urgent need. If there were a uniform agreement, the three communities would have to fund repairs on the building themselves (as was the case in the recent past in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem). But the lack of agreement and the dangerous state of the roof has forced the Palestinian National Authority to intervene and provide for its restoration.

From one point of view, therefore, the Palestine move calling on UNESCO to declare the Basilica of the Nativity as a "world heritage site" will save the holy place and make it easier to find the necessary funding for repairs, which promise to be very expensive. Moreover, the Christian communities who officiate at the Nativity have received the written guarantee that the NPC has no intention of intervening in the use of the Basilica and indeed, will ensure the smooth running of all religious functions according to the "status quo", which is also guaranteed in Article 4 of the 'Basic Agreement' between the Holy See and the PLO (2000).

Among Catholics, there are those who expect something more from UNESCO: the inclusion of the Church of the Nativity in Heritage List should also ensure the architectural integrity of the sanctuary. This is to prevent any future alteration or destruction of the Church of the Nativity similar to what happened in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This is a beautiful jewel dating to the period of the Crusades, originally with a circular form. But a few decades ago, the Greek-orthodox built the so-called Katholicon, two walls enclosing the shrine which upset the architectural space of the building. Now, on entering the church you are no longer greeted by the so-called Stone of the Anointing in front of the columns of rotunda and Aedicule which crown the Holy Sepulchre itself, but a simple, bland wall, which destroys the architectural logic of the most important church in Christendom .

Thus, it is vital to guarantee the present and future architectural integrity of all the holy sites not owned by the individual churches.

The vast majority of holy places (in fact, all the others, which are not governed by the "status quo") are owned by the individual churches. As private property, they should not be taken over by any state in any way to make any capital, even if they themselves are of global importance. For some time, for example, the Israeli state are pushing for some holy places such as Mount Tabor, Capernaum, and other Catholic shrines in Galilee to be put under the "protection" of the state. The Catholic Church opposes this in principle: they are the private property of ecclesiastical bodies and can not in any way be transferred to others. Moreover, it is not clear what value this "protection" would have: to protect them from whom? If the state wants to protect them, all they need to do is respect them and maybe even some positive actions, without trying to become too involved, risking undue interference.

From this point of view, the decision of UNESCO to include the Church of the Nativity in the World Heritage list, while positive, is likely to offer support and a pretext for attempts to nationalize other shrines in Israel and Palestine.

This is why, the Catholic Church has been insisting that, for example, the definition of Mount Tabor as a "national park" and other major shrines in Galilee be removed, because they are Catholic shrines and private property.

Making these sanctuaries "national parks" denies the fact there are church property and undermine their sacred character.



e-mail this to a friend printable version

See also
Temple Mount clashes leave wounded and arrested
Victory for Palestinian Authority: Church of the Nativity becomes UNESCO World Heritage site
Holy Week, Israeli and Palestinian border restrictions impedes pilgrims
08/31/2010 ISRAEL - VATICAN
Peres to visit Pope at a time of "serious" dialogue between Rome and Jerusalem
by Arieh Cohen
09/07/2006 HOLY LAND
Bethlehem: lock put back in Basilica of the Nativity
by Arieh Cohen

Editor's choices
Paris Massacre highlights the failure of Muslim integration in Europe
by Catherine FieldThe attack in the heart of France highlights the crisis of Europe’s model of coexistence. Social unrest, poverty and marginalisation feed youth extremism and radicalisation. A New Zealander journalist, expert on expertise in religion and interfaith dialogue, talks about it after undertaking a journey through the French Muslim world.
For Nîmes imam, Islam should not be held hostage by extremists
by Hochine DrouicheFrench imams condemn the Paris terrorist attacks and disassociate themselves from violence committed in "the name of our religion." At the same time, they ask Muslim communities to dare leading a life of dialogue and friendship with Europeans, without fear or arrogance. For centuries, Muslims have ruled out reason from their religious life. The vice president of French imams bears witness.
AsiaNews marks 12 years: Persecution and hope
by Bernardo CervelleraDespite a worldwide increase of ignorance, indifference and superficiality, many signs of love and hope resist even in the most gloomy situations: the Iraqi mother who gives birth to her child in a refugee camp and smiles even though she has nothing; the Indonesian Muslim mother who blesses her son who became a Christian and a priest; the Chinese Christian families that welcome children thrown away because of the one-child law.


Copyright © 2003 AsiaNews C.F. 00889190153 All rights reserved. Content on this site is made available for personal, non-commercial use only. You may not reproduce, republish, sell or otherwise distribute the content or any modified or altered versions of it without the express written permission of the editor. Photos on AsiaNews.it are largely taken from the internet and thus considered to be in the public domain. Anyone contrary to their publication need only contact the editorial office which will immediately proceed to remove the photos.