Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), has announced a fundraising campaign to help the restoration effort currently underway at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
The site marks the burial place of Jesus Christ, and has long stood as one of the most precious shrines of the Christian heritage. The Armenian Church, through its Patriarchate of Jerusalem, shares joint custodial oversight of the Holy Sepulchre, and is deeply involved in the current restoration.
In a letter to Diocesan leaders, the Primate announced that the Eastern Diocese aims to raise $300,000 to contribute to this effort. The campaign is called “Save the Tomb” — and has already begun operating.
“I have asked Mr. Paul Korian to lead a committee of people from throughout our Diocese, who are committed to working with individuals and parishes across our community to raise the $300,000 amount,” the Primate said in the announcement.
Mr. Korian, a business leader based in Massachusetts and Michigan, was originally a native of Jerusalem’s Armenian community. He has assembled a committee of church leaders from around the Diocese to coordinate and promote the “Save the Tomb” campaign.
The Diocesan “Save the Tomb” committee is providing resources for parishes to build awareness and excitement around the project. A special website has been launched — www.SaveTheTomb.org — where individuals can find information on the project and make online donations.
A social media hashtag — #SaveTheTomb — will be used to build momentum and update the public on the campaign and the restoration effort.
Other promotional materials — posters, flyers, and special Save-the-Tomb bracelets — are being sent to Diocesan parishes.
Local parishes throughout the Eastern Diocese will be holding receptions to support the “Save the Tomb” project. These are being scheduled to go forward from April to June of this year.
In addition, the Primate has designated Sunday, April 30 — the Sunday of the World Church — for a special collection to be taken in parishes in support of the “Save the Tomb” project.
Restoring Christ’s Tomb
The Armenian, Roman Catholic, and Greek Orthodox patriarchates of Jerusalem are responsible for maintaining distinct sections of the Holy Sepulchre. Each patriarchate protects its domain and privileges.
In 2015, the Greek, Latin, and Armenian patriarchates invited the National Technical University of Athens to study the Edicule: the ancient chapel-structure built over Christ’s tomb. The patriarchates agreed to begin restoring the structure in March 2016, with work to be completed in 2017. The expert team has previously led restoration projects on the Acropolis in Athens and Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.
To finance this monumental work, each of the three principal custodians committed to contributing $1 million to the project.
One of the oldest churches in the world, the Holy Sepulchre was built in A.D. 325 by the Roman Emperor Constantine, after the site of Christ’s burial was identified due to the efforts of Constantine’s Christian mother, Helena.
The original structure was destroyed in A.D. 1009 by the Muslim Caliph al-Hakim. A 12th-century restoration by the Crusaders gave the Holy Sepulchre its current appearance, although an 1808 fire all but destroyed the Edicule (the interior chapel built over the Tomb itself).
The 2016-2017 restoration will strengthen the structure by replacing the mortars and strengthening the columns. It is planned to take 8 to 12 months, during which time pilgrims continue to visit the site.
This is the first time in 200 years that a major restoration of the Holy Sepulchre is being done. A crucial moment in the restoration came in late 2016, when a marble slab was carefully removed in order to expose the rock slab on which our Lord’s body rested in the hours after his death on the cross. It was the first time in more than 200 years that the actual resting place — Christ’s “burial bed” — had been seen by human eyes.
How You Can Help
Armenian Church dioceses and individuals across in the world are contributing towards the share of restoration costs being borne by the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
Contributions can be made online on the secure server of the SaveTheTomb website — www.SaveTheTomb.org — or via checks made out to the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, Memo: Save the Tomb Fund.
For information, log onto www.SaveTheTomb.org — or call the campaign’s special information and contact number: (508) 233-2091.