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Orthodoxy Churches and
the Nativity Church in Bethlehem 2002

Russian version


HELP! FIRE in the library of our church 29.04.02

on The Sunday
of the Cross

Threatening omen of the bleeding icon of the Savior

Photo Gallery: Bethlehem 2002

         Great Lent is generally known as a time of strife and temptation. During the Great fast of 1999 Yugoslavia was targeted by NATO still failing to present intelligible justiification to the bombing of a sovereign state. Anyway, rockets were hitiing not only military targets - during the bombings people were killed, living houses destroyed and - holy Christian places were turned to ruines.
        Three years later one of the holiest Christian sites, the Nativity Church in Bethlehem, is being desecrated. For three weeks Israeli forces have been holding siege of the ancient sanctuary, demanding the extradition of the 200 Palestinians who had entered the Church seeking shelter.
        The Nativity Church had been intact for 15 centuries that had elapsed from its construction. According to an ancient legend, back in 641 a Persian ruler conquered the town but stopped short of destrying the sanctury just because he saw the Magis in one of the frescos and believed they had come from Persia.
        This time it is different. The gunfire has already hit an ancient belltower of the Church. Israeli snipers aim at its windows and a huge crane is placed in the Manger Square with a psychological warfare device emanating supersonic frequencies meant to produce strong fear in people holed up inside the compound.
        Monday, April, 22 AP reported, stun grenades were heard around the church, and a puff of white smoke rose up from the compound. A Palestinian policeman inside the church, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Israeli fire was hitting the church walls.
        The bodies of Palestinians killed by the snipers are said to lie unburied with the compound.
        Three weeks ago, armed Palestinians fleeing Israeli troops shot open the locks of a nearby Franciscan monastery, and broke into the church compound. Since then, Israeli tanks and snipers have surrounded the compound. The church stands on a grotto where Christians believe Jesus was born.
        With Israeli forces insisting on continuing the siege until all Palestinians come from the hiding, the situation seems to worsen despire Orthodox hyerarchs' numerous appeals upon the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to stop the violence in the Holy place.
        "Our Church urges that any violent action in the place of the Nativity of Christ be abandoned and armed people be withdrawn from it." - says the STATEMENT BY PATRIARCH ALEXY II OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA AND THE HOLY SYNOD OF THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH ON THE SITUATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST , dated April, 4.
        That same day came the statement on the Holy Land by The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America. "We call upon all parties involved to respect the sanctity of the church, and to remove the conflict from its hallowed precincts immediately. We deplore the continuing bloodshed and violence which afflict the land hallowed by the life, death, and resurrection of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ and we call upon all persons involved to work together for a just and peaceful solution to the many problems which are the source of the conflicts", it says.
        "We are particularly troubled by confused reports from Bethlehem that seem to suggest that Israeli forces are threatening to violate the sacred space of the Church of the Nativity, one of the most holy places for all Christians, in order to arrest persons seeking refuge there.
        If these reports are true, this would be a very grave development that would have a profound impact on the entire Christian world.
        The Orthodox Christian Church has taken very seriously the role of providing sanctuary to those who have sought it. You no doubt know that our Church, throughout its history, has sheltered and otherwise protected from abuse, even death, thousands of persons of all religions' wrote the Archbishop of Athens and Greece in his letter to the Israeli ambassdor on April, 8.
        On April, 10 the Archbishop went to Jerusalem on a "mission of love and support" but had to quit his trip and go back to Athens: the Israeli miltary prevented him from visiting Bethelehem and insisted he return to Jerusalem.
        On April, 13 another Christian Orthodox Patriach - Patriarch Paul of Serbia issued still another appeal "to the conflicting sides and all people living in the Holy Land". "In Bethelehem, wrote the Patriarch, whose name means "the House of Bread" which is not by incident, Angels and priests were singing "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men". (Luk, 2-14). Therefore today it hurts us to see that the Church of Nativity is being kept under siege and is being hit by gunfire which prevents the priests and the monks of the most ancient church in the world - the Christian Orthodox Jerusalem Patriarchy from carrying out regular services there".
        Oh, Lord! How long?…


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