A special day for Christians, not only in the Holy Land, but in the entire world. In Jerusalem, the ecumenical ceremony of completion of the restoration and rehabilitation of the Edicule of the Holy Sepulcher was held on Wednesday, March 22, at 10 in the morning.
The historic agreement was reached exactly one year ago on March 22, 2016. The representatives of the three religious communities which are the primary custodians of the Basilica, as determined by the status quo, proceeded with the signing of the document: the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theofilus III, the Apostolic Armenian Patriarch Nourhan Manoughian and the then Custos of the Holy Land, Pierbattista Pizzaballa.
In the front row at the ceremony, apart from the three signatories: the current Custos of the Holy Land Francesco Patton, the Apostolic Nuncio Giuseppe Lazzarotto, who represented the Holy See, and Archbishop of Constantinople, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
Among those present were also the representatives of the other Churches of the Holy Sepulcher: the Coptic, the Syriac and the Ethiopian communities as well as those of other Christian denominations in the Holy Land, and various religious and civil authorities, including the greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The many faithful who packed the basilica clearly proved that it was a historic moment.
H.E. Mons. PIERBATTISTA PIZZABALLA, ofm
Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
"This restoration was made possible thanks to everyone's willingness and especially thanks to the three major churches that were able to envision a change and to lead everyone (even the most recalcitrant) to an agreement that was necessary as well as long overdue and expected by all communities and by our faithful. This restoration also shows our desire to heal disunion so that we can inspire the new generations to a better and higher understanding of love in the Church that bears the wounds of our divisions. So this seemed an impossible mission, but it has proved possible, and, repeating what the angel Gabriel told Mary: ”
H.B. TEOFILO III
Greek Orthodox Patriarch - Jerusalem
"This is a message for the world and for our community here: what is considered impossible can become possible and this is what actually happened today. I believe the restoration is a sign of inspiration for all of us human beings: we can surpass ourselves, we can reach a peaceful and harmonious coexistence and share this Holy Land, especially Jerusalem, which is considered holy by the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. "
The restoration works, which were directed by Professor Antonia Moropoulou from the National Technical University of Athens and lasted almost ten months, entailed a conservative and structural intervention.
National Technical University - Athens
“Today, we are very proud to have completed the rehabilitation of the shrine of the Holy Sepulcher for the three Christian communities. It is a fact that we had to face major challenges, such as restoring the structural integrity and correct deformities, overcoming obstacles, or even disclose the value of the place and preserve and display a historical continuity.”
Fr. FRANCESCO PATTON, ofm
Custos of the Holy Land
"This event is absolutely extraordinary, because it is the result ... we could say it is the first ripe fruit of a collaboration between the three main communities here in Jerusalem: the Greek community, the Latin community represented obviously by us and by the Patriarchate, and the Armenian community. This is a very significant event also because this year we will celebrate Easter on the same day and perhaps this is also a good sign for future celebrations together.”
Archbishop of Constantinople - Ecumenical Patriarch
"This entire day has a meaning of unity, collaboration and cooperation. We are very pleased that the Greek Orthodox, the Armenians and the Catholics gathered together and decided to restore the Holy Sepulcher. We invoke the grace of our Lord over all of them, over you and over the whole world. We pray for peace and unity."