Precinct 333

Monday, September 27, 2004

Disunity In The Sacred Places.

Yet another chapter in the long history of conflict between different groups of Christian faithful in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher occurred today. A group of Greek Orthodox priests and Franciscans got into a fistfight over whether or not a door in the church built over the Savior's tomb should be open or closed during a procession.

Over the course of over a millennium, an uneasy truce has developed between different Christian groups regarding rights to certain spots in the building, the right to repair or decorate walls, and even the right to live on the building's roof. This conflict was both encouraged and mediated by the Ottomans and other Muslim rulers in Jerusalem.

Monday's fight broke out during a procession of hundreds of Greek Orthodox worshippers commemorating the 4th century pilgrimage by Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine, to Jerusalem. Tradition says that during the trip, Helena found the cross on which Jesus had been crucified.

Church officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that at one point, the procession passed a Roman Catholic chapel, and priests from both sides started arguing over whether the door to the chapel should be open or closed.

The fight was broken up by Israeli police using clubs, and the procession continued.

There have been other conflicts in recent years.
In 2003, Israeli police threatened to limit the number of worshippers allowed to attend an Easter ceremony if the denominations did not agree on who would lead the ceremony. Police brokered a last-minute deal and the ceremony passed peacefully.

But a year earlier, the Greek patriarch and Armenian clergyman designated to enter the tomb exchanged blows after a dispute over who would be first to exit the chamber.

And how do we expect to ward off the jihadis if we cannot resolve our own disputes in fraternal love?


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