Relic from manger is returned to Holy Land
JERUSALEM — Christians celebrated the return to the Holy Land of a tiny wooden relic they believe was part of Jesus’ manger.
The thumb-size relic was unveiled to worshippers Friday at the Notre Dame church in Jerusalem for a day of celebrations. Its permanent home will be at the Franciscan Church of St. Catherine, next to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the West Bank holy site where tradition says Jesus was born.
Christian tradition holds that Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem to register for the Roman census and found no room at the inn, forcing her to give birth to Jesus in a manger where animals were held. The idea that the son of
God was born in humble surroundings is central to Christian theology.
A wooden structure that Christians believe was part of the manger was sent by St. Sophronius, the patriarch of Jerusalem, to Pope Theodore I in the 640s, around the time of the Muslim conquest of the Holy Land.
Brother Francesco Patton, the custodian of the Franciscan order in the Holy Land, said the wooden manger was given to Pope Theodore I as a gift because the pope was himself from the Holy Land and it would have strengthened ties with the church. He said the wooden structure is too fragile now to move, so Pope Francis decided to return a small part of it instead.
Yisca Harani, an Israeli expert on Christianity, said
many relics were relocated from the Holy Land in the Middle Ages as Rome and other cities were establishing themselves as centers of Christian life.
She said the return of the relic “is definitely a statement saying the Vatican and the Holy Land are together.”
A wooden relic believed to be part of Jesus’ manger was returned to Bethlehem on Saturday.