Daily Archives: 10/01/2004

Throw Down At The Holy Sepulcher

The religion of peace is at it again. Fistfights broke out Monday between a Greek Orthodox procession and Franciscan friars at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Apparently the church is divided between six Christian denominations, and tensions run high between the room mates. This fracas was caused by the Franciscans leaving the door open during the Greek Orthodox procession, which was a sign of disrespect. The Greeks took offense and several monks and parishioners got bloodied up in the fray.

Turns out their isn’t room inside the church for all the denominations that want a piece of the tomb. Two years ago, Ethiopian and Coptic monks came to blows over rights to squat on the church’s roof. From the Jewish Virtual Library’s article on the Church:

Since the Crusades, the precincts and fabric of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher have come into the possession of three major denominations: the Greek Orthodox, the Armenian Orthodox and the (Latin) Roman Catholic. Other communities – the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox, the Ethiopian Orthodox and the Syrian Orthodox – also possess certain rights and small properties in or about the building. The rights and privileges of all of these communities are protected by the Status Quo of the Holy Places (1852), as guaranteed in Article LXII of the Treaty of Berlin (1878).

Following the earthquake in 1927, the prevailing political authority (as provided by the Status Quo) had to intervene in order to carry out emergency structural repairs. Such intervention has not been necessary since 1959, when the three principal communities established a Common Technical Bureau.

Some issues, however, remain unresolved; one of these is the continuing dispute between the Coptic and Ethiopian Orthodox concerning ownership rights in the Chapel of the Ethiopians (on the roof of the Chapel of St. Helena). Since the dispute began, the government (as the prevailing political authority) has chosen not to intervene, in the hope that the two communities will resolve the matter between themselves.

Christians believe the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is located on the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, Golgotha. The belief stems from the year 326 AD, when Constantine the Great’s mother, Helena, visited the Holy Land to discover the true cross and the holy sites in Jerusalem. She located a place known as Golgotha, razed a Roman temple built on the site and discovered a series of rock cut tombs. She declared this the site of Christ’s Holy Sepulcher, and the first in a series of churches was erected on the location.