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Jews, Christians at odds over Last Supper site construction

Catholics: Someone wants to Judaize place; Jews: It's routine refurbishing.

Jews, Christians at odds over Last Supper site construction
Photo by: Ariel Jerozolimski
An ancient monastery adjacent to where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus ate the Last Supper, has turned into a legal battleground for Catholics and Jews. Last week the High Court of Justice issued a temporary restraining order halting construction work by a Jewish organization in a Franciscan monastery on Jerusalem's Mount Zion adjacent to the Cenaculum, the Latin term for the room where the Last Supper was held. The court also issued an order preventing the Jewish organization - the Institute for the Study of the Family and Family Laws in Israel - from moving people in to live in the monastery, known as the Franciscan house, just outside the Dormition Church. David Bartholdy, spokesman for Tancredi, a Catholic organization that petitioned the High Court, said the construction infringed on Christians' freedom of worship. "This is a holy place for Christians of all denominations," Bartholdy said in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. "Work being done there is causing serious damage to a monastery with important historical and religious value. Construction workers have already uprooted ancient floor tiling, scraped off a layer of plaster from the walls, broken down antique, chiseled doors, and all this under the supervision of the Antiquities Authority. "The construction work going on at the site raises the suspicion that someone is trying to Judaize a Catholic site and prevent freedom of religious expression." The Institute for the Study of the Family and Family Laws in Israel was established by former religious affairs minister Avner Shaki. Shaki died in 2005. In response to Tancredi's petition, attorney Ya'acov Weinroth, who is representing the institute, wrote that Bartholdy had issued an erroneous affidavit claiming that the institute planned to move residents into the building. "The assets belong to the institute since the 1970s and the offices and its workers have operated from there. Proper upkeep of the building necessitates refurbishing from time to time and the institute received the permission of the Antiquities Authority to do so," Weinroth wrote. In the 15th century the Catholic Church lost control of the buildings on Mount Zion. The upper room of the same building is known as the Room of the Descent of the Holy Spirit. On the first floor is "David's Tomb." In chapter two of the Acts of Apostles, Peter describes the place, mentioning that it is near David's Tomb. During his visit to Israel in 2000, Pope John Paul II held Mass in the Cenaculum.

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