(PRWEB) October 09, 2013
Tekton Ministries Director, Richard Sontag, in planning Catholic pilgrimages to the Holy Land is always sure to include Bethlehem in his itineraries. "This is the birthplace of our Lord and the Basilica of the Nativity is the most important Catholic site because this is where it all started," says Sontag.
However, the Basilica was placed on the Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in 2008 (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_the_Nativity) because much of the wood in the roof was rotting and the rainwater was and continues to seep into the building damaging the mosaics and paintings.
The Church of the Nativity is actually two churches with a crypt beneath which is called the Grotto of the Nativity, believed to be the very site where Jesus was born.
Three different custodians jointly maintain and utilize the site: the Franciscan order of the Roman Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox and the Armenian Apostolic.
The Armenian Apostolic influence is mostly witnessed in the Grotto where a 14-pointed star is set in the floor surrounded by the traditional silver lamps.
Just to the side is the "Catholic Chapel" which traditionally depicts the site where Mary laid the baby Jesus in the manger.
The main Basilica of the Nativity is maintained by the Greek Orthodox. It incorporates an iconostasis which is a wall of icons and religious paintings as well as a complex array of lamps throughout the entire building. It is accessible through a very low door called the "Door of Humilty."
The Roman Catholic Church of St. Catherine adjoins the Basilica and is of a more modern design.
It is these three churches that have come together to initiate the restoration of the Basilica that was started three years ago by the Palestinian Authority. An agreement was signed in August 2013 between them and the government of President Abbas. (Restoration of the Nativity's Roof)
Custos of the Holy Land Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa says, "The fact that all three churches have made this commitment is a magnificent expression of common interest which unifies all believers in God beyond their differences." He adds, "(the church) is a symbol of peaceful coexistence between Moslems and Christians in the Holy Land."
The roof renovation will take place in stages, the first of which is scheduled to be completed within one year. The project will also include restoration of the stained glass windows that have suffered damage over the years as well. The most important aspect of the work is to preserve the original beauty of the church.
Sontag is confident that the renovation will not interfere with pilgrims coming to visit the holy site, but the repairs will insure many more years for pilgrims to come and experience this most holy birthplace of our Lord.
The well needed repairs have started and the cooperative spirit of the three churches has not gone unnoticed as Fr. Pizzaballa comments, "We are seeing Christians and Moslems getting together to restore a monument, even if it's a Christian monument," and that is a very good thing.
For information on pilgrimages to see the Basilica of the Nativity, please contact us at http://www.tektonministries.org or call toll free 1-866-905-3787.