Christian worship diversity in Jerusalem and Bethlehem

  • Dome exterior of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem

  • Worshippers praying and kissing the Stone of Anointing, also known as The Stone of Unction. East Jerusalem

  • Pilgrims from India lined up waiting to enter the Nativity's Grotto. Bethlehem, Palestinian Territory

  • The church of the Sepulcher of the Virgin Mary in Jerusalem

  • The church of the Sepulcher of the Virgin Mary in Jerusalem

  • The central nave of the Bethlem Nativity's church

  • The central nave of the Bethlehem Nativity's church

  • The Dome of the Rotunda of the Church and the Aedicule which contains the Holy Sepulchre itself. Jerusalem

  • Pilgrims in the central nave of the Bethlehem's Church of Nativity

  • Worshippers wait inline to pray in front of the Altar of the Crucifixion. There, according to the tradition, Jesus was crucified (Golgotha, the Hill of Calvary). Jerusalem

  • The central nave of the Bethlehem Nativity's church

  • A pilgrim stands in the left nave of the Bethlehem's Church of Nativity

  • Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Gethsemane in Jerusalem most famous as the place where, according to the gospels, Jesus and his disciples are said to have prayed the night before Jesus' crucifixion.

  • A friars celebrate and sings in Latin in the Nativity's Grotto, Bethlehem

  • The Coptic Chapel on the rear of the Aedicule which contains the Holy Sepulchre itself in Jerusalem

  • Armenian Orthodox Priests celebrate at the Stone of three women (Armenian Shrine). Jerusalem

  • Ethiopian and Coptic Orthodox acquired lesser responsibilities, which include shrines and other structures within and around the building. Times and places of worship for each community are strictly regulated in common areas. Jerusalem

  • Ethiopian Orthodox celebrating in St. Michael's Chapel. Jerusalem

The area of Jerusalem and Bethlehem is a millennial host for multiple worships. Since the 4th century it is the most important pilgrimage destination for Christians. In spite of this, religious diversity has generated in time wars, violence and disputes. A delicate and unstable balance rules today the functions of each ethnic and religious group established in the area.
Particularly, the Holy Sepulchre complex, home of the headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem features a shared control between several Christian churches and secular entities in complicated arrangements essentially unchanged for centuries. Today Greek Orthodox, Armenians, Roman Catholics, Copts, Ethiopians and Syrian Orthodox all share rights to the church. Times and places of worship for each community are strictly regulated in common areas, filling the church with a continuous cycle of prayers regulated by the status quo arrangement of 1853. The Muslim Nuseibeh and the Joudeh Al-Goudia families were entrusted in the past as custodian to the keys of the Holy Sepulchre. This arrangement still persists nowadays.

Jerusalem and Bethlehem. September 2012