ANOTHER FIRE in a Jerusalem Church on the Heels of Pope’s Visit

Church of the Dormition

And this one appears to be vandalism.

A man set fire to a prayer book in Dormition Abbey, the church which marks what is said to be the final resting place of Mary.

Pope Francis had, according to reports, just finished celebrating Mass at the Cenacle, the Upper Room where Jesus is believed to have celebrated the Last Supper.  A man who is described by Israeli police as “non-Jewish” in appearance, and who was not wearing a skull cap, is suspected of intentionally setting the fire.

According to The Tablet:

Jewish nationalists had protested in the run-up to the Pope’s visit against allowing the Catholic Church greater access to the Cenacle, which is on the floor above the site held to be the burial place of King David. On Sunday night 26 people were arrested at David’s Tomb after they refused to evacuate it.

Fr Nikodemus Schnabel, of the Benedictine-run abbey, said the burned book contained the personal supplications written down by visitors. A wooden bench and small crosses nearby also caught fire, causing some damage.

“Luckily the organ didn’t catch fire, which could have sent the whole church up in flames,” Fr Schnabel added. “We don’t know who could have done this, but because of the timing, it could be that it was connected to the Pope’s visit.”

*     *     *     *     *


The Dormition Abbey is a German Benedictine monastery which was begun in 1898 and completed in 1911.  It stands a short distance from the Upper Room, in what has traditionally been believed to be the Virgin Mary’s Jerusalem home.  Originally, the Byzantine Church of the Pillar stood on this spot, and it includes a pillar from Caiaphas’ house.  The Church of the Pillar was enlarged in 415 A.D. and renamed the Hagia Sophia; but in 614 A.D., it was destroyed–along with all the other churches in the city–during the Persian invasion.  Some of its ruins are still visible in the lower level.

The large upper church features an enormous mosaic of the Blessed Mother holding Jesus in her arms, her right hand pointing to him.  Above are smaller mosaics of prophets who predicted Christ’s birth, including Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Micha, to show the connection between the Old and New Testaments.

In the lower level is a statue of Mary in death, laid out on a bier.  While Scripture says nothing about whether Mary died before her Assumption into heaven, the tradition in the Eastern churches is that she did, in fact, die before being taken into heaven.