Moscow, December 15, 2016
His Holiness Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem has responded to criticisms that restoring the Lord’s Sepulchre constitutes an invasion of a holy space and a sacrilege.
Speaking in an interview with the press service of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem he stated, “The fact is that restoration has been ongoing in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for many years already; the only part of the church that remained untouched was the Edicule, which therefore was in need of restoration, particularly of the burial cave of Christ, that is the Holy Sepulchre.”
He noted that restoration is being done on the entire complex, which therefore necessarily includes the very funeral bed of the Lord. Head of the restoration project Professor Antonia Moropoulou of the Athens Polytechnic University stated that the marble slab was removed to gain access to the historic masonry underneath which was swollen from decades of rainwater falling through a hole in the roof of the tomb. The walls were restored and water damage fixed.
The patriarch further noted that the corroded drainage system, dating to Ottoman times, is also to be restored in the future, to prevent further water damage to the Edicule.
Addressing circulating gossip of mysterious occurrences over Jerusalem—the blast of angels’ trumpets and supernatural phenomena in the sky—at the time of the opening of the Lord’s tomb, His Holiness denied such stories, saying, “This is nonsense. There were no such phenomena. Moreover, the Orthodox faith … is reasonable worship… Believers should not ask such questions—it is totally unacceptable.”
The patriarch also noted that work is moving according to schedule and they expect to celebrate Pascha 2017 at the Sepulchre.