10/07/2008, 00.00
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Jerusalem: Monastery on top of Holy Sepulchre in danger of collapse

The structure, which is at the heart of a dispute between the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Coptic Church, could collapse if major repairs are not carried out. Israel is willing to foot the bill, but the failure of the two Churches to agree over ownership is blocking the undertaking.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Deir al-Sultan Monastery on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is in danger of collapse. The monastery's two chapels and the tiny rooms where Ethiopian Orthodox monks live are at the heart of dispute with the Coptic Church which claims ownership. Now they could crumble, injuring the many tourists who visit the site, as well as the monks who live there.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the greatest symbol of the Christian tradition in the Holy Land where according to the New Testament Jesus was crucified, buried and risen, is at risk and could suffer serious damages if the monastery should collapse.

An engineer issued the warning after recently examining the structure; in his words, the complex was a “danger to human life.”

Israel’s Interior Ministry has proposed to repair it on the condition that the Coptic Church and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church come to an agreement over ownership.

In a letter to Israeli Interior Minister Meir Sheetri, the head of the Ethiopian Church in Jerusalem, Archbishop Matthias, said that this condition was “unacceptable to us, since we do not recognize any right of the Coptic Church in the area in question (i.e. the Deir al-Sultan Monastery).” The net result is that everything is at a standstill.

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