The Independent [UK] 2/16/05, Excerpts: Holy Battleground—Is Nothing Sacred? It’s the holiest of Christian sites—the place where Jesus was buried. But the Church of the Holy Sepulchre has become a battleground where priests fight and monks stone each other.
No fewer than six different kinds of Christian[s] enjoy grossly unequal shares in the use and management of the church. Lording it as representatives of the oldest and richest church of the Holy Land are the Greek Orthodox, who control about 40 per cent of the church’s territory and contents. At the other end of the scale is the tiny community of Ethiopians who inhabit a cluster of little huts on their rooftop terrace, directly above the ground that they believe King Solomon gave to their Queen of Sheba long before Jesus was even born.
The Catholic Franciscan community that Father Athanasius belongs to only won a foothold in the 14th century, after payment of a hefty bribe, but it is now the second-greatest power. The wealth and influence acquired as merchants in the Ottoman Empire have elevated the Armenian Oriental Orthodox to third position, while the Egyptian Copts make do with one tiny chapel. The Syrian Jacobites, who boast what Father Athanasius calls the “badly beat-up Chapel of Joseph of Arimathea”, are almost as underprivileged as the Ethiopians.
Soon it will be Easter, and the vast 12th-century Crusader church will host more services, processions and ceremonies than at any other time of the year. That means more friction and more occasions for violence. This worries Father Athanasius: “I’m really scared someone’s going to get killed.”
[TBC: Holy Land “consumer Christianity”: Every religious group “did that which was right in (their) own eyes” (Jgs 21:25).]