Some 1,400 years ago an important Christian relic from the biblical city of Bethlehem was sent to Rome as a gift to the head of the Catholic Church. It has now been returned to its place of origin.
A wooden fragment which is believed to be from the manger where Jesus was laid after his birth has arrived in the biblical city of Bethlehem after spending almost 14 centuries in the Vatican, Reuters reported on Saturday.
The piece, only several centimetres in length and sheathed in a silver ornamental case, was greeted by a crowd upon its arrival at the Franciscan Church of St. Catherine next to the Church of the Nativity, in the West Bank. The latter is a holy site where according to Christian tradition Jesus was born. It was first unveiled to worshippers at the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Centre on Friday and then transferred to Bethlehem on Saturday.
“It’s a great joy” that the piece has returned to its place of origin, said the Custos of the Holy Land for the Catholic Church Brother Francesco Patton, as quoted by the Palestinian news agency.
he whole Christian relic is more than 2,000 years old, according to Brother Francesco Patton. It was sent to the Vatican in the 640s by the patriarch of Jerusalem’s St. Sophronius as a gift to Pope Theodore I and remained there in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly asked Pope Francis to borrow the entire manger for some time, but the pope decided to send a fragment of the manger to stay in Bethlehem permanently.
The Christian relic arrived just in time for the launch of Christmas celebrations, as Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and other officials attended the traditional lighting of the Christmas tree ceremony in Manger Square outside the Church of the Nativity on Saturday.