16 June 2016
Sister Lilly Chirayath, C.H.F., joined by the children at her “House of Hope,” enjoys a visit from CNEWA’s Msgr. John E. Kozar in 2012. (photo: CNEWA)
Some of CNEWA’s greatest heroes are heralds of hope.
That would include Sister Lilly Chirayath, C.H.F., who runs the Holy Family Asha Niwas in New Delhi, otherwise known as the “House of Hope”:
“Our main mission is taking care of our orphanage,” Sister Lilly explains. “It’s where we help neglected and unwanted street girls 4 to 18 years of age.”
More than 25,000 families live in the slums of southwest New Delhi, where even menial work is hard to find. Many people turn to petty crime or worse. And for the homeless girls the sisters have taken in, the orphanage has been a place that has literally saved their lives.
“These girls had been wandering around railway stations, markets and streets,” Sister Lilly points out. “Some lost their parents or are abandoned. Others have been ill-treated by their drunken fathers. They were exploited by antisocial elements. Many are undernourished, both mentally and physically.”
The sisters help them in many ways — from providing shelter, food and clothing to ensuring each girl receives an education. As Sister Lilly says, “We believe they should have vocational training, health care, counseling and guidance.”
On her orphanage’s website, Sister Lilly explains even more about the hope that animates her mission:
Jesus said, “When you do something for the least of my brethren, you do it for me.”
Children are the loveliest creation of God. They are so innocent, so unblemished, so lovely, and so marvelous. They deserve everything best in the world. They deserve love, they deserve to be happy and they deserve to be well taken care of. God entrusts them to us, elders.
But what do we see in the world? For me, a child being treated cruelly is the most painful thing in the world. The most terrible poverty is loneliness and feeling of being unwanted.
Love the children; care for the children, help the children to grow up happily, and the world will be beautiful.
When one is happy, he/she spreads that happiness to others, to the society, to the whole world. So fill the hearts of children with love and make them fully active, creative and enthusiastic.
It is something Sister Lilly and her sisters happily do with boundless compassion, tenderness and joy.
16 June 2016
Muslim scholars and religious leaders gather in Erbil earlier this month to discuss how to deal with the situation in the Middle East. (photo: PRIO.org)
The tragic situation in the Middle East has challenged Muslim thinkers and religious leaders to analyze the almost total breakdown of civil society, sectarian violence on a historically unprecedented scale and widespread human suffering the region has not seen for centuries.
What can be done?
In recent months, two gatherings of Muslims scholars have attempted to deal with the situation and to offer possible solutions. A very important conference took place earlier this month in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan. It was held 2-4 June 2016 under the co-sponsorship of the Hikmah Center for Dialogue and Cooperation (Najaf, Iraq), the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) (Norway) and the Center for the Study of Islam and the Middle East (CSIME) (Washington, DC). As such, it was the second major recent attempt by Muslim scholars to deal with the situation in the Middle East.
The first attempt was a meeting of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies. It took place in Marrakesh, Morocco, 25-27 January 2016. It was attended by Muslims from 120 Muslim majority countries from around the world. The Marrakesh conference dealt with the topic on a global scale and generally speaking from a Sunni perspective. The Marrakesh Declaration uses as its point of departure the so-called Constitution of Medina, which is an agreement the Prophet Muhammad made with the citizens of Medina delineating their rights and obligations when he came from Mecca and took over leadership of Medina. The Marrakesh Declaration challenges Muslim majority countries to: “develop a jurisprudence of the concept of ‘citizenship’ which is inclusive of diverse groups. Such jurisprudence shall be rooted in the Islamic tradition and principles and mindful of global change.”
The Erbil Declaration, however, is different in significant ways.First, it deals specifically with the situation in Iraq. Secondly, the document has been influenced by Shi’ite thought through the co-sponsorship of the Hikmah Center for Dialogue and Cooperation and also the CSIME. The presence of PRIO provides an non-Muslim perspective. The first thing that one notices is that the Erbil Declaration relies less on traditional Islamic categories and more on contemporary political theory. This is by no means to imply that the Erbil Declaration is a break with traditional Islamic thinking but rather that it is a contribution to its development.
Several very important concepts form the framework of the Erbil Declaration: citizenship, civil society and government, which is “responsive to all its citizens equally and regardless of their religious or ethnic identities.”
Dr. Ahmad Iravani, the president of CSIME, delivered a paper at the forum entitled “Inclusive Citizenship amid Cultural and Religious Diversity.” In the paper Dr. Iravani makes several important points. First, he states that “power-sharing through both direct electoral participation and civil society involvement is an absolutely integral part of building a social and political trust.” Religion is seen as having played and continuing to play an important — though not exclusive — role in civil society. Iravani notes that “...civil society engagement should be utilized to promote social harmony and religious pluralism within Iraq and demand a government that is responsive to all citizens....”
Recognizing that the notion of citizenship cannot simply be translated from a Western context into Iraq, Iravani notes: “Building a harmonious social compact that includes all Iraqi citizens is achievable perhaps only through the notion of citizenship. Although a modern concept...without it [citizenship], and given the diversity and recent conflicts and insecurity in Iraq, it would be very difficult to build a harmonious social order based on trust and mutual state-society responsibility.”
The Erbil Declaration then makes concrete applications of these principles:
- That the solution for Iraq is to enhance the status of citizenship, so all have equal rights and duties under the rule of law.
- That the well-ordered state should protect and guarantee for all Iraqis the fundamental freedoms of belief and expression.
- That authentic reconciliation should be promoted among the Iraqi people ensure the enhancement of mutual trust.
- That religious, educational, and media institutions should actively support inclusive citizenship, co-existence, and respect for others.
- That religious leaders should educate their congregations to respect our humanity and to reject all forms of extremism, hatred, and the use of terror.
- That after completely liberating the land of Iraq from Daesh, the Iraqi government should implement procedures for the establishment of peace and to prevent negative consequences from arising, such as cycles of revenge and sectarianism.
- That cultural institutions, civil society organizations, and universities should channel their energies towards the eradication of everything that would be detrimental to citizenship.
- That the capacities of young people should be given much attention, and support should be given to activities that ensure them with a life in dignity and an education that protects them from extremism.
- That the role of women as half of society should be reflected in their status as citizens, and they should have a substantive role in the development of society.
Given the situation in Iraq and elsewhere, the principles of the Erbil Declaration provide a clear, practical and contemporary framework for rebuilding societies that have been destroyed. Although specifically proposed for Iraq, the principles can be far more widely applied.
You can download the full text of the Erbil Declaration here.
16 June 2016
Women clean and sort coffee beans in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, showing the painstaking human effort that goes into creating Ethiopia’s prized coffees. Learn more in Brewed to Perfection in the November 2011 edition of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
16 June 2016
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople delivers a blessing during a 2014 Divine Liturgy attended by Pope Francis in the patriarchal Church of St. George in Istanbul. The patriarch is urging Orthodox leaders to attend a historic meeting in Crete set to begin Sunday.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Patriarch Bartholomew urges leaders to attend pan-Orthodox meeting (CNS) Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople called on his brother patriarchs and primates of the Orthodox churches to honor their commitments and join him for the Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church. Four of the churches — the Antiochian, Bulgarian, Georgian and Russian Orthodox — announced they would not attend the gathering scheduled for 19-26 June on the Greek island of Crete...
Iraqi militants attack fleeing civilians, displaying Christian symbols (Fides) In recent days, pictures have been circulating in the media and in social networks, showing some militiamen operating in paramilitary groups who participate in operations displaying crosses, effigies of Jesus and other Christian symbols.The Chaldean Patriarchate issued a statement to express the condemnation of such acts, and to reiterate that the perpetrators cannot claim any relationship with Christianity...
Pope thanks ROACO for support of Eastern Churches (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Thursday with members of the ROACO (Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches) Assembly which raises funds for Christians in the Eastern-rite Churches. Among those taking part in the meeting were the papal representatives from Jerusalem, Lebanon, Syria, Ukraine, Iraq and Jordan, as well as the new Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land, Father Francesco Patton...
Russia wants “long-term ceasefire” in Aleppo, Syria (BBC) Russia has called for a long-term ceasefire in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, hours after declaring a two-day pause in the fighting there. The Russian defense ministry said the “regime of calm,” which went into effect at midnight, was an effort to stabilize the situation in Aleppo...
Israel plans concrete wall along Gaza (The Jerusalem Post) Israel’s defense establishment plans to build a concrete wall that goes tens of yards underground as well as above ground along the Gaza Strip border. The plan, revealed on Thursday on the front page of the Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Aharonot, will cost an estimated $568 million, less than previously estimated, according to the report. A wall that stretches underground is believed necessary to combat the proliferation of attack tunnels running under the border between Gaza and Israel...
15 June 2016
The title of the 1970 film, “Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came,” has recently morphed into the question “what if they called a Great and Holy Synod and nobody came?”
Since 1961, there has been talk among the 14 autocephalous (or independent) Orthodox churches, comprising some 300 million people, about the possibility and necessity of a meeting — a Pan-Orthodox Council or, more formally, a Great and Holy Synod. The obstacles to convening a synod of the Orthodox churches have been many and sometimes great. But, finally, after decades of negotiating and tumultuous change in the lands of most of these churches, a synod was planned for June 2016. The original venue was scheduled to be in Istanbul, the seat of the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, but that was unacceptable to the patriarch of Moscow of the Orthodox Church of Russia. Instead, the synod is to take place in Crete from 19 to 26 June.
The idea of a synod of all the Orthodox churches began in 1961 with Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople. While the ecumenical patriarch is recognized as the “first among equals” in the Orthodox communion of churches, he has no authority over those churches that are fully independent. Consequently, issues of leadership surface, raised especially by those Orthodox churches backed by powerful civil governments.
While synods of bishops generally govern each of the independent Orthodox churches, meeting at least annually, the Orthodox world has little experience with general councils: Occasional synods and councils, with varying degrees of participation and canonical recognition among the churches, stretch back to Nicaea in the year 787, when the last of the universally recognized ecumenical councils was convoked by the emperor of the Romans.
The proposed Great and Holy Synod has been compared in the media — especially in the West — with the Catholic Church’s Vatican II. In actuality nothing could be further from the truth. Should the synod take place, each of the 14 churches will be a full and equal member — there is no emperor or pope to convene and preside. And no single individual will approve the decrees of the synod; they are accepted or rejected by unanimous consensus.
A gathering of Orthodox leaders — a Synaxis of Prelates — met in January 2016 and set six issues on the synodal agenda: ecumenism, marriage, fasting, autonomy of churches, the diaspora and mission. But there is little unanimity on any of the topics. Ecumenism is a major issue of contention. Some Orthodox churches do not consider any other Christian body to be a valid church. These churches do not recognize the baptism or other sacraments of other Christians. Marriage between an Orthodox and non-Orthodox Christian, even if the non-Orthodox individual is a baptized Christian, is forbidden. Other Orthodox churches are more open in their acceptance. At present there is clearly no consensus.
Deep theological issues, however, are not the only obstacles to the synod. There are conflicts among several of the Orthodox churches. Almost all of the objections can and are articulated in theological terms, making dialogue and compromise more difficult.
At present, five of the 14 autocephalous churches — Antioch, Russia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Georgia — have indicated they will not attend. The patriarch of Antioch has broken communion with the patriarch of Jerusalem, who has appointed a bishop in Qatar, traditionally the territory of the patriarch of Antioch. Thus the Orthodox Church of Antioch, one of the first patriarchates and the third most in importance, will not participate in the synod. The Orthodox Church of Bulgaria has decided not to attend the synod because, among other things, it was not happy with the seating arrangements.
For an outsider this is a tragedy. The world has changed since Athenagoras first proposed a pan-Orthodox synod. One of the greatest strengths of Orthodoxy has been its ability to enculturate and adapt to the culture where it lives. While that is still of great value in the homelands of Orthodoxy, it proves an anomaly in the diaspora. More and more Orthodox Christians are living in the “New World,” which is culturally, linguistically and philosophically very different from the homelands of these churches. Almost every Orthodox Church is represented, for example, in North America. Very often they have little to do with other Orthodox churches in their area — despite being in full communion. As they lose contact with the ancient homeland, they run the risk of becoming ghettoized in the new world, isolated from the home church and also isolated from each other.
It is an open question whether the Great and Holy Synod will take place and, if it does, whether it will have any impact on Orthodoxy in particular and Christianity in general. It is not an open question whether the Great and Holy Synod is necessary. It is very necessary if Orthodoxy is to remain an integral part of the modern, globalized world.
15 June 2016
Tags: Ecumenism Christian Unity Orthodox
Bishop Ruben Tierrablanca Gonzalez sits in the “cathedra,” or bishop’s chair, alongside Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, during his 11 June ordination Mass at Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul. You can read more about the new bishop’s life and background from the Vatican announcement of his appointment here.
(photo: CNS/Nathalie Ritzmann)
15 June 2016
In the video above, Pope Francis during his weekly General Audience on Wednesday denounces indifference and hostility toward refugees. (video: Rome Reports)
Pope: “Recognize the Lord in refugees, the poor, the disabled” (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis encouraged believers on Wednesday to open their eyes and hearts to God’s love for the poor and to the gift of healing that he offers to all who turn to him in faith...
Sunni Islam university condemns Orlando attack (Fides) Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the highest seat for Sunni Islamic learning, condemned Sunday’s deadly mass shooting in Orlando, in a gay nightclub, but also expressed concerns about utilizing the incident to intensify anti-“Muslim rhetoric” campaigns...
Advocacy group accuses U.N. of not being neutral in Syria (The New York Times) An international advocacy group accused the United Nations on Wednesday of not being neutral in the Syrian conflict, claiming that the world body is prioritizing its relationship with the Damascus government over delivering aid to civilians. The Beirut-based Syria Campaign said in a scathing report that the U.N. has “allowed the Syrian government to direct aid from Damascus almost exclusively into its territories,” at the expense of establishing regular aid access to hundreds of thousands of Syrians besieged by government forces...
Jordan’s queen visits Caritas’ Restaurant of Mercy (Fides) In the holy month of Ramadan, Caritas volunteers who since December have been offering meals to those in need at the Restaurant of Mercy in Amman, in the Jabal al Weibdeh area, have modified their work plan: to adapt to the needs of their customers, mostly Muslims. They do not serve meals at lunch but they are opened in the evening, to offer, to those who observe the fast of Ramadan, the only meal eaten after sunset. On Tuesday, 14 June the restaurant and the other realities run by Caritas Jordan at the center of Jabal al Weibdeh received a welcome visit of Queen Rania of Jordan, wife of King Abdullah II...
Chaldean patriarch responds to criticism over call to fast during Ramadan (Fides) The request made by the Chaldean Patriarchate to all Iraqi Christians to unite for a day of fasting practiced by Muslims during Ramadan has provoked some criticism, also expressed “with inappropriate words” through social network. To clarify the true extent of the initiative and unravel possible misunderstanding, the Chaldean Patriarchate, through its official channels, has called the practice of fasting, prayer and penance as ordinary tools with which, from apostolic times, the Churches of the East and all Christian communities over the world express their supplications to the Lord, even before the situations of suffering and war, such as those currently experienced by all the Iraqi people, to ask for the gift of peace...
Religious in India urged to “answer the call” to mercy (Vatican Radio) “The Year of Mercy is something real, it is not simply something where we say a prayer or attend a conference. We can answer the call of Pope Francis by generously launching concrete action plans, in favor of the poor and the suffering”: says Salesian Father Joe Mannath, to Agenzia Fides. “The need is urgent, the possibilities are big, and we religious are in a better position than most people: our contribution can make a difference,” explains Father Mannath who is the National Secretary of the “Conference of Religious Indians” (CRI), which unites the congregations and religious orders in India...
14 June 2016
Ukrainian Greek Catholic Bishop Borys Gudziak is prominent educator, spokesperson and spiritual leader in Ukraine. (photo: Ivan Chernichkin)
In 1993, when CNEWA started supporting institutions of the newly resurrected Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine, very few people had heard of Borys Gudziak. However today Bishop Borys Gudziak is known as a leading spokesperson of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and is well-recognized for making extraordinary contributions to Ukrainian society and the entire Catholic Church.
At CNEWA, we have decided to feature Bishop Borys among our 90 heroes because of his exemplary leadership and wise stewardship of resources entrusted to his team by our agency over the last 20 years.
Bishop Borys was born 1960 in Syracuse, New York. After completing his undergraduate studies in philosophy and biology at Syracuse University, he continued his education in theology at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome. While living in Italy his spiritual formation was nurtured by the late Cardinal Joseph Slipyj. From 1983 to 1992 Borys Gudziak was working on his doctoral thesis at Harvard University, focusing on the analysis of the Union of Brest of 1596.
In 1992 he moved to Ukraine, where he played an instrumental role in the development of a number of research and educational projects, the most prominent of which is the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) in Lviv. (You can read his full biography here.)
Borys Gudziak was ordained a priest in 1998 and became a bishop in 2012.
After half a century of being suppressed by communist regime, the Lviv Theological Academy reopened its programs in 1994 with several dozen students. At the time, they were based in a modest building of a former kindergarten. As a result of Bishop Borys’s charisma and vision, this educational institution has grown into a major center of learning and evangelization in Ukraine. As of today, it remains the only Catholic university on territories of the entire former Soviet Union. Current programs offered by the Ukrainian Catholic University range from undergraduate and graduate degrees in theology and humanities to the highly-sophisticated training opportunities in business, computers sciences, journalism and other areas. (There is more about this extraordinary school in the recent edition of ONE magazine.)
Bishop Borys also offered spiritual and moral support to his people during the uprisings in Kiev in 2013. He wrote about his experience on the front lines of that conflict in ONE, noting, “I trust in the Lord’s presence and work amid these long-suffering people and in their witness to the world.”
Since the beginning of CNEWA’s involvement in Ukraine, the Lviv Theological Academy that later transformed into the Ukrainian Catholic University has been agency’s main Ukrainian support recipient. CNEWA is proud to be able to make such a wise investment and is grateful to Bishop Borys for his wise stewardship. CNEWA’s team wishes Bishop Borys many of God’s blessings as he continues to serve the Catholic Church as an Eparch of the Paris Eparchy of St. Volodymyr the Great, as President of The Ukrainian Catholic University and as a visionary leader who wears many other heavy hats.
14 June 2016
Guests listen to a presentation about Middle East Christians during the reception organized by 17-year-old Christopher O’Hara at Gallagher’s Steakhouse in New York City. (photo: CNEWA)
Editors note: Earlier this month, CNEWA hosted a special fundraising reception at Gallagher’s Steakhouse in New York City, to raise awareness about CNEWA’s work in the Middle East. What may be most surprising, though, is that this event was the brainchild of a 17-year-old young man from Long Island, Christopher O’Hara. Here, he shares his story.
I am a junior in high school, and I came to be involved in CNEWA in a rather unusual way. I spent a month last summer in rural Tibet studying Chinese and living with a local family. When I returned home, I was looking forward to spending the rest of my summer reading at the beach. But on one of those first quiet days, I ended up having a long and detailed conversation with a good friend of my parents, who wanted to tell me about an incredible organization she had been involved with, CNEWA. Her enthusiasm was contagious. The more I listened, the more I thought this was something I needed to look into. I did some research on CNEWA, and I could not have been more impressed. My parents’ friend put me in contact with Lauren Lozano, a development associate at CNEWA.
In my conversations with Lauren and her colleagues Norma Intriago and Philip Eubanks, we discussed how someone in my position could raise awareness and funds for CNEWA. At the same time we were having these conversations, the refugee crisis in Syria and Iraq was exploding, and I thought the subsequent lack of international response was appalling. The professionals at CNEWA informed me of the real threat facing Christians in the Middle East, and I decided that my focus would be on their charitable operations in that region. I reached out to faculty and administration at my school, Chaminade High School, but I wanted to do more. It became clear that I should organize — with the help of my family and friends — a fundraising event. I told the people at CNEWA my idea, and we were off and running.
The Rev. Elias D. Mallon, Chris O’Hara (Christopher’s father), Christopher O’Hara and Norma Intriago meet during the reception. (photo: CNEWA)
The staff at CNEWA is exceptional. They spent hours and hours helping me plan and organize a reception for roughly 100 people in New York City. I was astounded by the level of effort and detail required to pull off an event like this. Thankfully, Norma and Philip were there for me every step of the way, and the event was a tremendous success.
Looking back at that night, I realize how truly blessed I am. The night opened on a high note when the owner of our venue, Dean Poll, came over to tell me he was so impressed with what he had learned about CNEWA that he decided to donate the room, the food and the refreshments. It was an unimaginably generous act, and set a great tone for the evening. The steady stream of family, friends, and supporters of CNEWA that followed made an already great night even better.
The Rev. Elias D. Mallon explains the severity of the crisis in the Middle East. (photo: CNEWA)
The Rev. Elias D. Mallon had the full attention of those gathered as he explained the magnitude and severity of the crisis and the importance of maintaining a Christian presence in the Middle East. I was fortunate enough to be able to introduce Father Elias and to address the audience after his remarks.
Christopher O’Hara speaks at the conclusion of the fundraiser. (photo: CNEWA)
It is an experience that I will never forget, but I hope that it is just the beginning a long and lasting relationship with the work of CNEWA.
The event at Gallagher’s was just the beginning. We’ve established a CrowdRise page to help Christopher O’Hara continue raising funds for CNEWA. Visit this link to contribute.
If you would like CNEWA to visit your parish or organize a presentation about our work, please contact our development director Norma Intriago at firstname.lastname@example.org.
14 June 2016
Tourists and Christian pilgrims visit the tomb where it is believed Christ was buried inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on 17 April. For the first time in 200 years, experts have begun a restoration of the Edicule of the Tomb. (photo: CNS/Jim Hollander, EPA)
For the first time in 200 years, experts have begun a restoration of the Edicule of the Tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus was laid to rest after his crucifixion.
The project, which began in early June, is expected to take up to one year to complete and will include sorely needed damage repair and reinforcement of the structure.
The work is being carried out by experts from the National Technical University of Athens.
The project came together when the three principal churches overseeing the tomb under the 19th-century Status Quo agreement overcame enduring differences in a place where rights over every section of the church has been jealously guarded for centuries.
The Status Quo agreement was put in place by the Ottoman rulers in 1852 and preserved the division of ownership and responsibilities of the various Christian holy sites. At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, it governs the responsibilities of the principal churches — Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Armenian Apostolic — as well as the Ethiopian, Syriac and Coptic churches.
“There wasn’t any friction on this issue,” said Franciscan Father Athanasius Macora, who is responsible for supervising the agreement on the part of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. “There was good chemistry between the three heads of the churches and they agreed to it right away.”
However, the term “right away” is relative as the heads of the principal churches first brought up the issue of a very conservative “consolidation” of the edicule in 2000.
The current Edicule of the Tomb was built by the Greek Orthodox community in 1810, two years after a devastating fire. It has been encased in metal scaffolding since the
British Mandate period in the mid-20th century because of concern for its stability.
Though many church-connected professionals have expressed concern over the structure since 2000, it took the shutting down of the tomb for four hours by the Israeli Police in February 2015 because of safety concerns — a blatant violation of the Status Quo agreement — to get the churches to act on their earlier discussions. An agreement to carry out the work on the tomb was signed in March.
“The idea is to strengthen the structure and try to bring to get it back to its pristine state,” Father Macora said. “It is important that the work goes well. If all goes well, it will enhance the relationship (among the churches). If it doesn’t go well, it will not help their relationship.”
The tomb today is surrounded by a white perimeter wall, but the work on its exterior walls is taking place in the evening so pilgrims can continue to visit the interior of the tomb, he said.
All three churches are contributing to pay the $3.4 million price tag for the project. Jordanian King Abdullah also made a personal contribution for the restoration. Until 1967, the Old City of Jerusalem, where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is located, was under Jordanian control and the king continues to play a role in the safe guarding of Christian and Muslim holy sites.
“The tomb is the heart of the shrine. It is the most important reason why people are coming to visit the church and ... everyone knew the (the restoration) needed to be done,” Father Macora said. “There is no reason it could not be done. It is important that the work be done in a way which respects the rights of other communities.”
He noted that despite the often-cited disputes among the churches, relations have improved since the 1960’s and though they have reached a plateau since then, fewer conflicts emerge today.
“There have been sporadic outbreaks and there will be outbreaks in the future, but they are significantly less than in the past,” Father Macora said.
Cleaning work has also been undertaken on some of the mosaics in the church and work remains to be done on the floor around the tomb, which cannot begin until the restoration of the tomb is complete, he said.
This is not the first time the three denominations came together for a restoration project. In 1997, they cooperated to restore and decorate the great dome above the tomb with the financial support of the late Catholic philanthropists George and Marie Doty, seemingly ushering in a new era of cooperation.
Three years ago in Bethlehem, restoration and renovation work also began at the Church of the Nativity with the Palestinian Authority given the role of intermediary between the churches. The wooden roof of the church has been repaired and work is underway on wall mosaics.