Presumed Arsonist Sets Fire to Gethsemane Church Outside Old Jerusalem

AP Photo/Kevin Frayer

A presumed arsonist set fire to the Basilica of the Agony in Gethsemane Friday, a holy site where Jesus is believed to have spent the final night with his apostles before being crucified the next day.

Police have arrested a man believed to have set the blaze and investigations are currently underway. While no one was injured, the church floor and furnishings show some fire damage.

The Basilica of the Agony in Gethsemane is located on the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, where Jesus retired to pray after the Last Supper, asking God that “this chalice might pass me by,” and adding, “but not my will, but your will be done.”

It was in the same Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was arrested by large detachment of Roman soldiers and temple police and abandoned by his apostles, according to the New Testament account.

The church was first built by the Byzantine Christians in 379 AD and later rebuilt between 1919 and 1924, with construction financed by contributions coming from many different countries.

On Sunday, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa will celebrate a special Mass of reparation in the church to atone for the act of vandalism, accompanied by the Custos of the Holy Land, Father Francesco Patton.

“We hope that light will be shed on those responsible for what happened and that these events will not be repeated, to continue living in mutual respect between different faiths and cultures, which characterize the Holy Land,” the Custos of the Holy Land said in a press release.


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