Monks from different denominations band together to restore holy sites in Israel

The Cross at the top of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem | Wikimedia Commons/Michael Hammers Studios

Catholic, Greek and Armenian Orthodox monks are working in cooperation to restore holy sites in Jerusalem including the Church of the Nativity. Members of different denominations are known to have fought over the use of the shared churches in Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

Giammarco Piacenti, CEO of Piacenti Restoration Center, has been working on the restoration of the Church of the Nativity since April 2013 and observing the cooperation among the monks. "In the three years I have been here, I have had good collaboration with all the Churches," Piacenti told the Jerusalem Post.

"I think all the Churches want to save this church because here Jesus was born," he added. "It is important for all Christianity. For my professional life, this occasion is incredible."

Conflict had repeatedly broken out between different sects at the Church of the Nativity and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the past. In 2011, the Daily Mail reported a fight that broke out between the Armenian and the Greek Orthodox when a clergyman's broomstick accidentally went into a space controlled by the other group.

Father Samuel Aghoyan, Armenian Superior of the Holy Sepulcher, said that it took threats of the Edicule of the Tomb's closure before the religious groups reached an agreement. "But they were right," Aghoyan told the Jerusalem Post. "So we agreed, and in a way it was a good thing they did, although we had talked about it many times," he added.

The Edicule was traditionally believed to be the place where Jesus was laid to rest after his crucifixion. It was shut down for four hours by the Israeli police in February 2015 because of safety concerns.

The Piacenti Restoration Center just completed the restoration of Crusader-era mosaics on the walls of the Church of the Nativity. Cleaning work had already begun on the mosaics at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre but the restorers are waiting to finish restoration of the tomb before working on the floor around it.

Father Athanasius Macora, a Franciscan monk, said the tomb is the most important reason why people visit the church and restoration work was needed.

Macora noted that despite the recent conflicts, relations between the sects have improved since the 1960s. "There have been sporadic outbreaks and there will be outbreaks in the future, but they are significantly less than in the past," Macora told the Jerusalem Post.