Christian denominations start Jesus' tomb restoration project

Members of the media and workers from Israel's antiquity authority stand at a site that archaeologists say contains the remnants of an ancient Greek fortress, outside the walled Old City of Jerusalem November 3, 2015. | REUTERS/RONEN ZVULUN

Three Christian denominations work together to start the restoration project on the Church of Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, considered to be the site where Jesus Christ was crucified, buried and resurrected.

A year-long project that will repair, reinforce, and conserve the structure and will begin at the start of the current week. Members of the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Armenian churches met on Friday, May 20 in a show of unity after the Israeli government made it clear that the site is in danger of collapsing after nearly two centuries of erosion.

The estimated $3.4 million project is funded by contributions of the three religious denominations as well as by an undisclosed donation by King Abdullah of Jordan.

"We are reaping the fruits of these efforts in this age when sectarian wars are burning entire countries as can plainly be seen," said Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, in a statement, as reported by Jordan Times.

"His majesty constantly reiterates that Jerusalem's Muslim and Christian holy sites are a red line, which Jordan will not permit to be crossed. Also, that Jordan continues to uphold its religious and historic responsibilities toward the entirety of Al Haram Al Sharif with the utmost commitment and seriousness," said Theophilos III, who has his headquarters at the historical site.

The site was reported by the New York Times as a cause of contention among rival Christians with instances of physical brawl. The Christian groups conflicted on control over the 206-year-old structure.

For the first time in 50 years, Pope Francis and Eastern Orthodox Church's Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople met and prayed together at the Holy Sepulchre in May 2014 as a show of solidarity.

"We need to believe that, just as the stone before the tomb was cast aside, so, too, every obstacle to our full communion will also be removed," Pope Francis said, according to Catholic Herald.

Franciscan Friar Athanasius Macora told New York Times that the last significant renovation done on the site was in the 1950s to address the 1927 earthquake damage, but decades later, the process broke down.