How Canadian churches are helping restore Jesus' tomb
Published Monday, December 26, 2016 10:10PM EST
In the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City sits one of the holiest sites in all Christendom: the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Inside the church’s ancient stone walls stands a crumbling house known as the Aedicule, where the faithful line up to enter what is believed to be the tomb of Jesus Christ.
Now, thanks in part to money raised by several Canadian churches, the Aedicule is undergoing its first major restoration in more than two centuries.
“It’s one of the most beautiful shrines in all of Christianity,” Fredrik Hiebert, the National Geographic Society’s archaeologist-in-residence, who is helping restore the site, told CTV News.
Visited by millions of tourists and pilgrims each year, the Aedicule has been ravaged by time and an earthquake. For decades, the structure has been held up by unsightly iron bars. It is now receiving desperately-needed repairs.
"It’s just going to solidify the whole building so it can stand on its own,” Hiebert said.
During the restoration, workers briefly pulled back a marble slab to peer inside the tomb at the original limestone burial bed that many believe was Christ’s final resting place. Documented by National Geographic, it had been covered for at least 460 years.
The important restoration work would not have been possible were it not for rare agreement amongst the church’s often fractious custodians: the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches.
"Many people have often considered the Holy Sepulchre to be a war zone,” Father Thomas Rosica, CEO of the Salt And Light Catholic Media Foundation, told CTV News. “The Greek Orthodox, and the Armenians and the Catholics and all these other groups fighting over the tomb of Jesus.”
While these groups disagree on the proper way to practice Christianity, and while they have been known to squabble -- sometimes even violently -- over where and when each gets to pray at the site, they have come together in a show of unity to bring about the much-needed repair work.
In Canada, all three denominations jointly put out a call for donations to assists with the restoration, which is expected to be finished by Easter.
“This initiative is a very good opportunity for Christians to unite,” Bishop Abgar Hovakimian of the Armenian Church of Canada told CTV News.
Metropolitan Archbishop Sotirios Athanassoulas of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto agrees: “It is a wonderful thing that here in Canada, we can work together and raise money for the restoration,” he told CTV News.
With a report from CTV News’ John Vennavally-Rao