09/03/2010, 00.00
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Agreement reached to restore roof of the Basilica of the Nativity

The current roof of the Constantinian church dates to the fifteenth century and can no longer withhold rain, putting mosaics and paintings at risk. Orthodox, Armenians and Catholics manage to overcome age-old conflicts and sign a deal with the Palestinian Authority.

Bethlehem (AsiaNews) - After 200 years, the roof of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, West Bank, will be restored thanks to an agreement signed yesterday between the three Christian churches - Orthodox, Armenian and Catholic - who share ownership along with the Palestinian Authority.

The current fifteenth century roof of the church – which dates to the fourth century - rises above the grotto where Jesus is born.  According to a report by UNESCO, it can no longer withstand water filtration and pieces of wood are rotting away, risking ancient mosaics and paintings. But the complex and cumbersome management that characterizes all of the holy places - marked by divisions and disagreements among Christians - has so far prevented vital restoration work from being undertaken.

Yesterday, finally, the representatives of the three churches signed an agreement in the presence of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyed, head of the Presidential Commission in charge of restoration and the head of the international group charged with restoration work, the Italian Remigio Rossi.

The Palestinian Authority has made available one million dollars for the basilica’s restoration, but it is not yet clear when the first phase, which should last about five months, will begin.

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