BETHLEHEM/ Recognizing the scene of the Nativity? No need for UNESCO
Basilica of the Nativity (Infophoto)
The Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the dearest place, the very heart of Christian faith, was included in the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. This was made possible by the fact that Palestine (where the Basilica is located) was recently officially recognized by UNESCO, a decision which triggered the strong reaction of the United States and Israel. Now the criticism of the United States and Israel was renewed for a decision that the U.S. ambassador to UNESCO called deeply disappointing. It was simply a matter of politics, said the two countries, done to promote the official recognition of Palestine by the UN as well. For the Palestinian Authority, instead, it is a source of great pride and a decision that will promote the conservation of an important asset for Bethlehem. IlSussidiario.net asked the opinion of Father Pizzaballa, Custodian of the Holy Land, who said explicitly that “the Church of the Nativity does not need recognition by institutions such as UNESCO. It is already universal patrimony always”. According to Pizzaballa, the recognition is still important, but the hope is that the holy places remain part of the Church and not the State, thus excluding them from any kind of political diatribe.
Father Pizzaballa, what do you think about this recognition of the Basilica of the Nativity by UNESCO?
It is certainly an important decision. Our hope is that the Palestinian authorities, who have already issued a formal statement in writing saying this, continue to allow the holy places remain with the churches, so that they do not become part of the State and will remain excluded from political diatribes, retaining their purely religious character.
The United States and Israel have expressed their opposition to the UNESCO decision, calling it simply a political fact.
Everything becomes political in this country, even the most mundane and simple things are seen as pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli and vice versa. They become an opportunity for people to express their positions. This episode has unfortunately become a political and diplomatic episode between the two parties. This is what is beginning to be worrying.
In what sense?
We want, as we have always wanted, that the holy places be outside of these divisions, and not be pro-Palestine or Israel. What the churches have always said is basically that the holy places are places of worship and should be excluded from these dialectics.
What is the situation like today in Bethlehem?