The Fascinating, Nearly 2,000-Year-Old History Behind Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity

Christians are well-acquainted with biblical accounts of Jesus’ birth, but some might not know much about the Church of the Nativity, a site in Bethlehem that has long been venerated as the traditional location of Christ’s birth.

Mazen Karam, CEO of the Bethlehem Development Fundation, an organization created to help improve conditions in the town of Bethlehem, recently revealed details about his group’s ongoing efforts to renovate the church and restore various elements of its historic splendor.

Karam also delivered a helpful history lesson about the longstanding view that the Church of the Nativity is, indeed, the location where Mary and Joseph welcomed Jesus into the world.

Listen to Karem break down the captivating history:

The History Surrounding the Church of the Nativity
The site of the Church of the Nativity was pinpointed by St. Justin Martyr in the 2nd century and was later marked with the physical building of a church by St. Helena, mother of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great.

Nearly two millennia later, a house of worship still stands on the site, making it one of the oldest houses of worship in the world.

“In the year 326 A.D., [Helena] commissioned the construction of … the Church of the Nativity,” Karam said, noting the church was completed by 339 A.D. “It was a smaller church than what we know now. … It was destroyed in later years by an earthquake and was rebuilt in the year 526 by the Emperor Justinian.”

Years later, the site was expanded upon, with mosaics and other elements added. Over time, desecration and disrepair befell the church, though, with the last major repairs unfolding more than five centuries ago.

“The last major repair that was done to the church was done in the year 1480, 540 years ago,” Karam said.

But that changed in 2013, when the Bethlehem Development Fund began modern-day renovations on the site. Those updates are now 90% complete, with Karam and his organization fundraising the final $2 million needed to complete the transformational project.

What Convinces People of the Historicity of the Site?
Some might debate whether the Church of the Nativity was really built over the actual location where Jesus was born, though one fact persists, regardless of where people stand: millions across multitudes of generations have reverently visited the site, believing wholeheartedly in its authenticity.

Karam noted the early citation by St. Justin Martyr of the site’s true location of Christ’s birth, and explained some other factors that might add credence to claims about its ties to Jesus.

“At the time there was no Google and no mobiles and no WhatsApp and everybody received news by mouth, by witness,” he explained of the communications conditions present in the early church. “There is no room for false information here.”

Karam said pilgrims would come by the thousands to visit the location and to honor it as Christ’s birthplace.

“Like the star led the Magi to Bethlehem, I’m sure they were led by others,” he said. “Word of mouth travels fast.”

Considering the importance of accurate news traveling by word-of-mouth, Karam believes it is very likely the information was properly translated and spread among the populace.

And his claims could be well-founded, as CBN News has reported on other experts who believe there is historical backing for the location’s ties to Jesus.

Qustandi Shomali, a professor at Bethlehem University, has said the site dates back to the mid-first century.

“We do know that the identification of the site where Jesus was born already traditionally goes back to the middle of the first century at least,” Shomali said.

Roman Emperor Hadrian apparently destroyed Bethlehem and subsequently built a temple and trees over the location where Christians would visit the traditional site of Christ’s birth. While the act was likely intended to remove meaning from the location, it reportedly had a very different effect.

“In fact, this temple, instead of destroying the place, preserved the place,” Shomali said.

Read more about the Church of the Nativity and the ongoing restoration of this historic site.

Source: Faithwire

Glory Be to God: Social Media Star Who Was Censored for Sharing Biblical Beliefs on Marriage Wins Court Ruling

A lawsuit against social media star Erika “Kika” Nieto was overturned last week after the Colombian Supreme Court ruled that she should not be censored for sharing her beliefs about marriage.

Earlier this year, Nieto was ordered to remove an online video where she stated that marriage is the union between a man and a woman, however, she will “tolerate” other perspectives.

“God created man and woman so that they could be with each other,” she said at the time. “I don’t consider men being with men or women being with women to be good, but I tolerate that.”

An activist complained about her comments, leading the national court to order the video be removed from the platform.

“No one should be censored or fear criminal sanctions for expressing their beliefs. Together with Kika, we are overjoyed that the Court has overturned this censorship ruling,” said Santiago Guevara, counsel for Nueva Democracia, an NGO that represented Nieto with the support of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International. “Kika stood strong throughout this ordeal to make the case for every one’s freedom to share their beliefs.”

Click here to read more.
Source: CBN

Chinese authorities detain Christian minister and church worker

(Fenyang, Shanxi Province—November 26, 2021) On Wednesday, Yao Congya, the wife of Zion Reformed Church minister An Yankui, received the detention notice issued by Shanxi Province Fenyang Municipal Bureau of Public Security.

The notice stated:

Per the Criminal Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China Article 82, on November 22, 2021, our bureau criminally detained An Yankui who was suspected of illegally crossing the national border, and he is detained at Fangshan County Detention Center at present.

Public security agents took Minister An Yankui and Zhang Chenghao, a coworker of the church, after Sunday service on November 21. Officials provided no updates for over 24 hours. Their families made phone calls and queried, and shortly afterward, they received the detention notice.

The arrest of An Yankui and Zhang Chenghao is associated with five other coworkers of Fengyang campus of Zion Reformed Church who were arrested in July: Zhang Ligong, Wang Runyun, Zhang Yaowen, Wang Shiqiang, and Song Shoushan. In January 2020, these five coworkers attended the “Gospel and Culture Conference 2020” organized by Stephen Tong Tjong Eng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. However, over a year later, the Fenyang Bureau of Public Security arrested these Christians on a charge of “illegally crossing the national border,” even though they held official passports by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and entered customs legally.

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Source: China Aid

Catholic nuns reveal horrors they endure, with some blamed for ‘provoking’ priest’s sexual abuse and others told they ‘must suffer for Jesus’ with back-breaking labour

A new book has revealed horrors endured by Catholic nuns with some blamed for ‘provoking’ a priest’s sexual abuse and others told they ‘must suffer for Jesus’ with back-breaking labour.

‘Veil of Silence’ by Salvatore Cernuzio, a journalist for the Vatican’s online outlet, Vatican News, recounts the experiences of 11 nuns as part of an age-old system in which their Mother Superiors exacted cruel punishments and Catholic priests molested them.

‘They chose to protect the good name of the institution by sacrificing the victim,’ Cernuzio’s introduction reads.

‘The abused nun is transferred, accused of seducing the priest, and the priest stays at his place, continuing his predatory activity undisturbed.’

Cernuzio also alleges that nuns who complained of abuse by female elders were simply laughed at, while women from locations in Africa, India and the Philippines claim they were the target of overt racism.

Click here to read more.
Source: Daily Mail

Militant Fulani Herdsmen Kill 10 Nigerian Christians, Burn Over 100 Homes in Overnight Attack

International Christian Concern (ICC) — At one o’clock in the morning on Friday, Nov. 26, jihadist Fulani herdsmen killed ten Christians and set fire to 100 homes in an attack on Ta’agbe village, Plateau state, Nigeria.

According to witnesses, the attackers entered Ta’agbe dressed in black, holding sophisticated weapons, and shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (Allah is the greatest).

The National President of the Irigwe Youth Movement confirmed the incident to an ICC correspondent in Plateau. He said that the attack was aimed to wipe Christians from the area.

“I lost my grandchildren for the sake of Christ,” survivor Sibi Gara told ICC with tears, laying in a hospital bed in Miango District. “I slept outside on the street,” said another survivor who narrowly escape the attack, but lost six family members. An additional 690 people were displaced from their homes.

Nuhu Ngah, the National Spokesman of the Miango Youth Development Association, said in a press statement that the attack lasted for over two hours. He identified the victims, six of whom are from the same family: Gara Ku (80), Wiye Gara (67), Tala Gara (68), Rikwe BalaYoh (65), Tabitha Danlami (8), Sibi Danlami (4), Friday Musa (35), Daniel Mandi (45), Mweri Chogo (86), Ayo Balai (6).

Ngah also identified three injured survivors as Musa Kwa (60), Sibi Gara (65), and Nma Weyi (40).

Click here to read more.
Source: International Christian Concern

Catholic Archbishop of Paris Offers to Resign Over ‘Ambiguous’ Relationship With a Woman

FILE - Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit prior to bless the city of Paris during the Holy Thursday celebration in front of the Sacre Coeur basilica, on April 9, 2020 in Paris. The archbishop of Paris has offered to resign after admitting to having had an “ambiguous” relationship with a woman in 2012, the archdiocese said. Aupetit, who has led the Paris church since 2018, sent a letter to Pope Francis offering to resign following a report in Le Point magazine. There was no indication if or when Francis might act on it; he has refused to accept similar offers from other prelates caught up in scandal. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
FILE – Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit prior to bless the city of Paris during the Holy Thursday celebration in front of the Sacre Coeur basilica, on April 9, 2020 in Paris. The archbishop of Paris has offered to resign after admitting to having had an “ambiguous” relationship with a woman in 2012, the archdiocese said. Aupetit, who has led the Paris church since 2018, sent a letter to Pope Francis offering to resign following a report in Le Point magazine. There was no indication if or when Francis might act on it; he has refused to accept similar offers from other prelates caught up in scandal. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

PARIS (AP) — The archbishop of Paris has offered to step down after admitting to having had an “ambiguous” relationship with a woman in 2012, the archdiocese said.

Archbishop Michel Aupetit, who has led the Paris church since 2018, sent a letter to Pope Francis offering to resign following a report in Le Point magazine. There was no indication if or when Francis might act on it; he has refused to accept similar offers from other prelates caught up in scandal.

In an article published this week, Le Point said Aupetit had a consensual, intimate relationship with a woman. The report relied on several anonymous sources who said they had seen a 2012 e-mail Aupetit sent by mistake to his secretary.

Aupetit denied being the author of the email and told Le Point that he didn’t have intimate and sexual relations with the woman.

Roman Catholic prelates take vows of chastity. At the time of the alleged relationship, Aupetit was a priest in the archdiocese of Paris; he was made an auxiliary bishop of Paris in 2013 and was installed as Paris archbishop in January 2018.

In an interview Friday with Catholic radio Notre Dame, Aupetit denounced the “virulent” Le Point article.

“Those who knew me at the time and who shared my daily life would certainly tell that I was not living a double life, as the article suggests,” he said. “I recognize, as I have said before, that I poorly handled the situation with a person who was in contact many times with me.”

Calling it a “mistake,” he said he decided not to see the woman any more after speaking with Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, the then-Paris archbishop, at the beginning of 2012.

In comments to La Croix newspaper published Friday, Aupetit said that he did not use the word “resignation” in his letter to Francis, which he said would mean that he was “abandoning” his function. He said he instead put the decision in the hands of the pope.

He is the latest Catholic bishop to do so. The former archbishop of Lyon, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, offered to resign in 2019 after a French court convicted him of failing to report a pedophile priest. Francis refused to accept the resignation pending the outcome of Barbarin’s appeal, though he accepted it the following year, by which time Barbarin had been acquitted.

More recently, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the archbishop of Munich and Freising, offered to resign over the Catholic Church’s “catastrophic” mishandling of clergy sexual abuse cases.

Francis refused to accept it and Marx remains in office.

Only the pope can hire or fire bishops, or accept their resignations. At 70, Aupetit is five years shy of the normal retirement age for bishops.

Source: AP

Pope Francis and Macron meet at the Vatican amid clergy abuse scandals in France

VATICAN CITY (RNS) — French President Emmanuel Macron met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Friday, where they discussed the future of Europe and the results of the COP26 environmental summit in Glasgow in November.

Macron and the pope spoke in private at the Vatican before meeting with Francis’ right-hand man at the Vatican, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who heads the Vatican’s powerful Secretariat of State. Macron also spoke with Archbishop Paul Gallagher, who handles the Holy See’s relations with states.

“In the course of the talks, a number of international issues were discussed, including environmental protection in the light of the outcome of the recent COP26 in Glasgow,” read a statement from the Vatican (Nov. 26). “There was also an exchange of views on the prospects for the forthcoming French presidency of the European Union, as well as France’s commitment in Lebanon, the Middle East and Africa.”

Macron gifted Pope Francis with two books on the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the pope’s religious order.

The visit by the French president takes place at a time when the Catholic Church in France is undergoing significant turmoil, largely due to clergy abuse scandals that have marred the church’s credibility. Once called the “firstborn daughter of the Catholic Church” in Europe, France is seeing faithful leave the church in droves.

An independent commission called for by the French bishop issued a report on Oct. 5 showing that about 3,000 members of the clergy sexually abused 216,000 minors between 1950 and 2020. The leader of the French bishops’ conference, Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, said the staggering numbers stirred “shame and horror” in the church.

During a public audience Oct. 6, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to the victims of abuse in France — “and also my shame, our shame, my shame for the inability of the Church for too long to put them at the center of its concerns.”

French bishops held a conference Nov. 2-8 in Lourdes where they addressed the report about the sex abuse scandals and promised to start “a vast program of renewal” to prevent further abuses in the future.

Before meeting with Pope Francis, the French president signed a treaty at the seat of government in Rome, the Quirinale, cementing relations between France and Italy in the context of an increasingly divided Europe.

The Italian prime minister and former president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, called the signing of the treaty “a historic moment,” aimed at addressing today’s global challenges. Relations between France and Italy had cooled over the past few years, with the Italian government frustrated by France’s refusal to cooperate in the resettlement of immigrants and refugees.

The welcoming and promotion of immigrants and refugees has been a cornerstone of this pontificate, with Pope Francis making repeated appeals for countries to share in the responsibility. In December, Francis will be visiting Cyprus and Greece, where the question of migrants and their perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea will likely take center stage.

Pope Francis was scheduled to attend the COP26 summit of world leaders in Glasgow, Scotland, in November but canceled at the last minute. The event was poised to address the major challenges brought on by climate change and set out new global objectives for the environment but ended with a somewhat lackluster outcome as countries failed to find common ground.

Starting Jan. 1, France will take on the rotating presidency of the European Union, and some observers consider the Italy-France treaty to be a sign of shifting power dynamics in the Old Continent following the turbulent Brexit negotiations.

The French president and the pope have met several times and have had at least four phone calls through the years. The political challenges of the Middle East and Northern Africa, where France continues to play a significant role, were also a topic of conversation at the Vatican.

In regard to Lebanon, specifically, torn by decades of violence and now facing a major economic decline, Pope Francis and Macron share a common vision for its future. On Thursday (Nov. 25), Macron wrote to Lebanese President Michel Aoun to assure him the international community is willing to help, “but Lebanese authorities must restore confidence in their country.”

In a private meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati at the Vatican the same day, Pope Francis voiced his support for the Lebanese people and said their country is a model of coexistence that represents “a message and even a promise worth fighting for.”

Source: Religion News Service

How ‘The Most Catholic Country in the World’ Left the Church but Is Rediscovering Faith

DUBLIN – If there is a symbol of what happened to faith in Ireland, it might be the Church of the Annunciation just outside of Dublin. It’s one of the largest church buildings in all of Ireland, and it’s about to be knocked down because so few people attend services.

Ireland was once called “the most Catholic country in the world.” But it has gone from one of the world’s most outwardly religious nations to what some claim is one of the most secular.

For the Irish, “God Has Become Irrelevant”

Anyone in Ireland over age 50 can remember a nation where almost everyone went to church, but today live in a nation where in some areas, almost no one goes to church.

The institutional Christian faith that dominated Ireland died with surprising speed. And today, as one leader put it, “for the Irish, God has become irrelevant.”

Rocked by sexual abuse scandals, the Catholic Church lost its spiritual authority for many Irish, who not only walked away from the church, but legalized same-sex marriage, abortion, and elected an openly gay prime minister.

Click here to read more.
Source: CBN

Catholic cathedral Notre Dame ‘is being turned into a woke theme park’: Cathedral is being revamped with a ‘discovery trail’ and ‘Christianity for dummies’ exhibits, claim critics

Fire-ravaged Notre Dame cathedral is being turned into a ‘woke theme park’ with renovators adding a ‘discovery trail’ and ‘Christianity for dummies’ exhibits, critics have claimed.

Under new plans, confessional boxes, altars and classical sculptures will be scrapped for trendy art murals, with sound and lighting effects creating ’emotional spaces.’

A ‘discovery trail’ will lead visitors through various chapels, with an emphasis on Africa and Asia, and scripture will be beamed onto the walls in various languages, including Mandarin. One of the sanctuaries will even be dedicated to the environment.

Maurice Culot, an award-winning Paris-based architect, told The Telegraph: ‘It’s as if Disney were entering Notre-Dame.

‘What they are proposing to do to Notre-Dame would never be done to Westminster Abbey or Saint Peter’s in Rome. It’s a kind of theme park and very childish and trivial given the grandeur of the place.’

Click here to read more.
Source: Daily Mail

Turkey Bombards Ancient Christian Communities, Forcing Them to Flee as Refugees

DIL DARA, Syria – Christians are under attack in Syria as some of the last ancient Christian communities here are being bombarded by Turkish-backed forces.

CBN News has been on the ground in Syria, observing the conflict firsthand in a little-known part of the ongoing civil war which has gripped that country for more than a decade.

There is shelling ongoing in the town of Dil Dara just a couple of kilometers from the Turkish border. This is most likely Turkish forces that are shelling this village, which was made up of Christians and Syrians.

The idea is to make them want to leave, to drive everybody out of the area because Turkey’s plan is to try and resettle this whole area with Arab Syrians who fled as refugees into Turkey. Turkey’s got something like 2.3 million of those refugees and their idea is to resettle them forcibly into this area.

“They shell us every day. Look!” exclaimed one Syrian Christian villager.

“We are sleeping with our kids, with our animals, outside of the village. That’s what we are doing,” another survivor said.

The rockets and shelling that Turkey is sending this way here in Northern Syria are causing widespread damage. CBN News also visited a different village about 30 kilometers south of the Turkish border that regularly gets shelled. We observed the craters and houses destroyed by the shelling. And Turkey’s plan is working as many have been forced to flee.

Commander Aram of the Syrian Defense Forces walked us through the battleground. “This is the front of the front and it’s our last position north of Tal Tamr, and we used to come to the village from Seri Kaniye Road but we are not able to use that road now. We are using the M4 road. So there was other civilians here, maybe 14-15 families, but since last week they left. They come mornings and they left evenings. It’s a problem.”

There are now abandoned Christian villages all throughout Northern Syria, and walking through them is an eerie experience, like this particular village which had over 2,000 people living in it and today it’s a ghost town. They were right in the middle of working on a church building that they’ve been forced to abandon as they’ve fled for their lives.

Even with the people gone, Turkey keeps shelling these villages in an attempt to deny these residents the ability to move back in.

Source: Faithwire