– Church of Nativity undergoes restoration project

(Vatican Radio) Every year thousands of pilgrims flock to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in the Holy Land to visit the place where Jesus was born. Now they will be able to see the fruits of a two year restoration project at the Holy site as Lydia O’Kane reports.

It’s taken two years, a team of international experts and meticulous work, but now the initial phase of an ongoing restoration project at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem has been completed.

The church which houses the grotto where the Virgin Mary is said to have given birth to Jesus is listed as endangered by UNESCO, the United Nations cultural agency and has suffered from centuries of neglect.

Before work began, rain leaked through the severely damaged rooftop threatening to harm precious artworks inside.

Silvia Starinieri is a specialist from the Piacenti restoration firm in Italy which has been on the front line of the two year project along with other international engineers and experts which also includes a Palestinian team.

She described the complexity of the work.“The most complicated thing is, was to find the solution to restore, to conserve the ancient element for the future generation… using the new technologies.”

So what is it like to work on one Christianity’s holiest sites? For Ms Starinieri, it was an incredible experience.

“An emotion very big, all of us are proud of this, very very happy.”

The Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian churches share ownership of the church, built by St Helena in the 4th century and although much restoration work has been completed there is still more to be done.

“We stay there for three years and we continue to see the Church, to maintain and to monitor,” Starinieri said.

But that work will depend on the availability of funds. An additional $11 million is needed. The Palestinian Authority has already launched a campaign to raise the funds and Abbas has pledged to follow through in order to protect this holy site for future generations.

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