Bethlehem: The Palestinian government
announced Tuesday it is planning an ambitious restoration
project for the ancient church that marks the traditional
birthplace of Jesus, an important Christian site that draws
millions of visitors.
The renovation of Bethlehem`s Church of the Nativity
is expected to take several years and millions of dollars,
according to Ziad Bandak, an official overseeing the
Bandak said this is the first comprehensive
restoration project on the church since it was completed in
the fourth century. He said the roof, pillars and mosaics in
the church all need work.
"Rain leaking in has caused great damage to all of
those, which led us to move quickly to repair the damage,"
Bandak said, adding that the project would also aim to fix
general wear and tear on the centuries-old church.
The fortress-like church, built in the classic style
with a long central area under a basilica lined with columns
on both sides, is dark and damp. The main Christmas event, the
Midnight Mass, is celebrated in the 19th century St
Catherine`s Church next door to the Church of the Nativity.
The Palestinian government has appealed to European
and Arab nations to help fund the project, Bandak said. He
said the three churches that administer sections of the church
have agreed to the project. Officials from the Latin, Greek
and Armenian churches could not be reached for comment. Their
rivalries have often led to fistfights between monks at the