Christians have celebrated the return to the Holy Land of a tiny wooden relic they believe was part of Jesus' manger nearly 1,400 years after it was sent to Rome as a gift to the Pope. Source: 9news.com.au.
The thumb-sized relic was unveiled to worshippers on Friday at the Notre Dame church in Jerusalem for a day of celebrations and prayer. On Saturday, it was sent to its permanent home 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.
Its arrival coincided with the beginning of Advent. Christian tradition holds that Joseph and Mary travelled to Bethlehem to register for the Roman census and found no room at the inn, forcing Mary to give birth to Jesus in a manger where animals were held.
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.
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 centres of Christian life and pilgrimage.
A relic from the manger would have been particularly useful for dispelling heresies holding that Jesus was more of a spiritual than a physical being.
She said the return of such an important item "is definitely a statement saying the Vatican and the Holy Land are together".
Christians cite oral history and tradition for proof of the authenticity of the relics, including the wooden manger. They say the earliest Christian communities preserved and venerated objects connected to Jesus, handing them down through the generations like family heirlooms