An ecumenical ceremony marked the reopening of the aedicule. Representatives of the Franciscan community, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Churches spoke at the event. Mgr Pizzaballa also spoke. Pope Francis donated money for the restoration of the Holy Sepulchre and the basilica in Bethlehem. Bartholomew I, Patriarch of Constantinople, expressed his gratitude.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The end of the restoration work on the aedicule of the Holy Sepulchre was marked today in a ceremony attended by representatives of the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Churches as well as the Custos of the Holy Land.
With the latter in mind, Mgr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, noted that the event provided an opportunity “to build a new relationship among us based on trust and respect."
The ceremony took place in the Basilica at 10 am in the presence of Christian religious leaders like the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I as well as diplomats and political leaders like Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
His All-Holiness Bartholomew thanked the “honourable scholars of the National Polytechnic of Metsovo headed by the distinguished Prof Antonia Moropoulou” for their work. He described the tomb as a “minuscule monument” but one that is so vast as “to contain the entire universe”.
“In our contemporary, ever troubled and divided world, the Holy Sepulchre before which we stand constitutes the sole source of genuine, substantial and sacred unity among Christians that is not established upon human interests and ambitions, but only upon the Cross that is able to unite what was previously divided”.
For Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III, “the aedicule restoration has an ecumenical significance for the whole human family because this sacred place brings closer all nations, ethnic groups and cultures and is an eloquent testimony of a destiny and shared humanity.”
The work is a show of unity that can be an inspiration "for all the peoples of our region, especially at this time of difficulty and confusion for our world."
Theophilos also thanked Jordan's King Abdullah II and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for their donations.
In his address, the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr Francis Patton, expressed hope for peace and joy for the completion of the work in time for Easter, which this year falls on the same day for Catholics and Orthodox. This represents a kind of restoration for "all Christianity" that helps the Churches become closer, and able to work together and feel "as brothers".
Armenian Apostolic Patriarch Nourhan Manougian mentioned the Passion and commandment of love of Jesus who “told us that to be his disciples we must love one another”.
“My dear brothers,” he went on to say, “we all read the same Gospel, the same words, translated into our language. We have no difference of opinion on this commandment. Christian solidarity is a sign that our love for Christ goes beyond our cultural, liturgical and linguistic differences."
The Armenian Patriarch also mentioned the possibility of allowing, once a year after Easter, other churches to officiate in the aedicule. "I am certain that our Lord Jesus Christ would love it."
Under the current status quo, only the Latin, Greek and Armenian Churches can celebrate services in the basilica.
"This restoration marks not only the achievement of an important technical objective, but also a new stage in our relations,” noted Mgr Pizzaballa. “The aedicule becomes a concrete symbol of a new restored site, the life of the Churches of Jerusalem. "
For him, the Holy Sepulchre, in which all Christians remember the resurrection of Jesus, is the mirror of what we are. "We want to heal the wounds of a divided history. This restoration sprinkled oil and balm on the wounds of the body of Christ which is the Church. "
The apostolic administrator ended by pointing out that the work is not completed. Restoration will continue in the area around the aedicule.
In a joint press release, the Custody announced that the Holy See contributed a million dollars for the restoration of both the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
Thursday's ceremony, which went ahead in spite of official objections, is being called to question. The patriarch has accused Israel of behaving "like the Ottoman Empire".
A team of researchers from the University of Athens has removed the slab on the Holy Sepulchre. The latter will remain open for three days. After decades of waiting, experts will be able to examine the fill material and bedrock where Christ's body was laid. Meanwhile, restoration of the Edicule continues. Everything should be completed by March 2017.