The recent rededication of the ‘Edicule’, or chapel surrounding Jesus’ tomb in Jerusalem’s Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, is an important sign of the growing cooperation among the different Christian Churches in the Holy Land.
That’s the view of Belgian Father Frans Bowen, a Missionary of Africa who has been living in Jerusalem for almost 50 years. He works closely with the Vatican as a member of the joint international commissions for dialogue with both the Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox Churches.
During a visit to Jerusalem with the Tantur Ecumenical Institute last week, Philippa Hitchen, spoke to Fr Frans about the complex relationships among Christians in the land where Christ was born….
Fr Frans explains that in Jerusalem the three most visible communities are the Greek Orthodox, the Latin, (or Roman Catholic) and the Armenian patriarchates. These communities are the principle groups included in the ‘Status Quo’ which regulates custody of the main Christian sites (the Latin Patriarchate is represented by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land).
Alongside those, there are the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Copts, Syrians and Ethiopians who have small communities, as well as the Oriental Catholic Churches, that is Greek Catholic, Maronite, Syrian and Armenian Catholics.
There is also an Anglican and a Lutheran bishop in Jerusalem, plus many smaller Pentecostal and Evangelical communities, but Fr Frans says the 12 main Churches with episcopal structures now meet regularly and have developed a closer collaboration over recent decades.