Original Article

By Callum Paton

Part of the of the roof of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher collapsed Friday as hundreds of worshippers visited the site.

The church, one of the holiest locations in the Christian faith, had to be closed in the wake of the collapse while officials made sure it was safe for the congregation to return.

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Local media reported that the ceiling collapsed in an area where around 50 Ethiopian Christian worshippers had just finished praying.

“After the prayer and after the worshippers had left, some of the ceiling fell, causing great damage to the church, but thanks to God and His kindness there were no casualties at all,” Adeeb Joudeh Husseini, a church custodian explained.

09_27_Holy_Sepulcher Christian worshippers surround the Edicule as they take part in a Sunday Easter mass procession in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem’s Old City, April 16.REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD

Following the incident, Israeli police sealed the courtyard of the church. Work has begun on repairing damaged area.

For the Christian faithful, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher marks the sites where Jesus was crucified and where he was buried and resurrected. The church is one of the principal points of pilgrimage for Christians of all denominations.

The fourth century church is shared between the Greek Orthadox, Roman Catholic, Armenian, Coptic Syriac and Ethiopian Christian denominations. For 250 years a complicated system of sharing the places of worship has been observed

Earlier this month church leaders in Jerusalem issued a rare joint statement spoke out against the Israeli government saying it was weakening the Christian faith in the middle east.

The heads of Jerusalem’s major churches—including its Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Lutheran denominations, among others—criticized Israel’s lawmakers and its courts following a ruling that mandates the sale of church buildings to a Jewish settler organization.

The church leaders protested the transfer of the ownership of three church buildings belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem’s Old City to the Ateret Cohanim Association, a right-wing Israeli Jewish settler organization which has purchased properties in East Jerusalem. They also put themselves in direct opposition to a bill which would make all church land sold to private citizens the property of the state.

“We see in these actions a systematic attempt to undermine the integrity of the Holy City of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, and to weaken the Christian presence,” the statement from the church leaders read.