October 14, 2005

First the Baptists and Now The Catholics

I find this story to be quite troubling on a number of levels.
Vatican offers swap deal to regain site of Last Supper

THE Vatican is hoping to regain control of the Room of the Last Supper in Jerusalem, one of the most sacred sites in Christianity.

It will, in exchange, hand over to the Jewish community the historic synagogue at Toledo in Spain, at present a Catholic church.

The proposals, contained in a draft agreement between the Israeli Government and the Vatican, come on the eve of a state visit to the Vatican next month by President Katzav. Final details on a long-delayed accord on the status of Roman Catholic properties in the Holy Land are expected to be agreed during the visit, marking a new era of reconciliation between Christians and Jews after centuries of hostility."

Believe it or not I think that there is much to be gained in building stronger interfaith relations and think that this should be a priority. However it should be conducted in a manner in which the sides are seen as equals.

I have a little problem with the idea of being offered property that was stolen from Jews, especially if it is phrased as being part of some magnanimous gesture. Because what this says to me is that the church acknowledges that this is not their property but is only willing to give it back if they get something in return.

Call me crazy, but if this were a fight between children I would instruct the child that took the toy to give it back without demanding something in return.

I'll keep an eye on this because I am interested in seeing how it all shakes out. For those who are curious here is a little more information about the room in discussion.

"The Upper Room, where the Last Supper is said to have taken place, is held by Christians to be the place where Jesus broke bread and drank wine with the disciples on the eve of his Crucifixion and also where the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples at Pentecost.

The Last Supper has become an iconic Christian image, painted most famously by Leonardo. The Room of the Last Supper is the fourth most holy place in Christendom after the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, built over Christ’s tomb, the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, where the Virgin Mary was told by an angel she was to give birth, and the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where the birth took place.

The present Gothic-arched room is not the original but was built by the Crusaders in the 14th century. It was taken over in 1342 by the Franciscans, the Catholic custodians of Christian sites in the Holy Land.

Along with the rest of Jerusalem, it fell to the Ottoman Turks in the 16th century and was transformed into a mosque, whose Arabic inscriptions are still visible. Since the foundation of Israel the area has served as the site of Jewish yeshivas, or religious schools, since Jews believe that the Tomb of King David lies beneath the spot."

Hat Tip to the slumbering Bear.

6 comments:

annearkham said...

I feel wildly unqualified to talk about anything religious (no matter what the religion), so I'll just say thanks for stopping by my blog, Jack!

Stephen (aka Q) said...

None of these sites has ever held any appeal to me. In reality, no one has any idea where the annunciation to Mary took place (assuming it was even a historical event), where Jesus was born, where the Last Supper took place, or where Jesus' tomb was.

I know it helps people when they have something physical to view, but in my opinion these places have no spiritual significance.
Q

Jack's Shack said...

Hi Anne,

Thanks for coming by here too. :)

Q,

I often wonder how many fights the world has seen over intangibles, or should I say intangibles that people think are tangible if you know I mean.

sandra said...

Absolutely disturbing...but then again, a lot of things about a lot of big organizations - religious or otherwise - are. It'd be nice if they'd lead by example, though.

Assorted Babble by Suzie said...

I think you have a good point about the Catholics however as you know I am a Christian but love with all my heart my Jewish friends.

The point of giving something that was stolen, should be given without something in exchange.

I hope one day I can go there and see these annointed holy places.

Jack Elliott said...

The Upper Room, or Cenacle (from Latin for dining room) traces its origin at least to the 2nd century AD where its predecessor was a church associated with a location where the Apostles had met. It later became the Church of Holy Zion during the 4th century. Under Islamic rule the church went through various destructions by Muslims, until in ca. 1335 the ruins were purchased by the Franciscans from the Muslims and there the Franciscans constructed a monastery which they used as their headquarters for serving pilgrims to the Holy Land.

However, Christians had previously constructed a shrine on the site commemorating King David which symbolically linked the promises made to the Davidic line with the Kingdom of God preached by Jesus Christ.

This Christian shrine to David was later to prove the Franciscan's undoing when the Muslims and Jews began to regard it as the actual burial place of David. In the 16th century the Muslims forcibly evicted the Franciscans from their monastery and turned the monastery into a mosque in honor of David.

During the 1948-49 war of Israeli Independence, the Muslims abandoned the structure and the Israelis consequently confiscated it and turned it into a Jewish shrine and Yeshiva.

It now appears that after centuries of trying to regain this building, the Catholic Church may actually be about to regain only a part of it, namely the Cenacle.

So if there is any concern about property rights, the Franciscans can point to the fact that they purchased the site and constructed the building. And it was they who were subjected to the ignominy of having their property with all of its Christian associations taken from them by powerful overlords, who were then dispossessed in like manner by other overlords.

This was originally a Christian shrine and remains one of the primary sites commemorating Christ's redemptive works.

For documentation pertaining to the Franciscans's development of the site see
Sabino de Sandoli, "The Peaceful Liberation of the Holy Places in the XIVth Century" at
http://www.christusrex.org/www2/liberation/

Concerning the origin of the so-called "Tomb of David" under the Cenacle, see the article by the Israeli scholar Ora Limor, "The Origins of a Tradition: King David's Tomb on Mount Zion," TRADITIO, 44:453-462, 1988.
Regarding the probable (but currently unknown location of David's tomb, see Hershel Shanks, "Is This King David's Tomb?", BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY REVIEW, Jan/Feb 1999, pp. 63-67.