(TerraSancta) Close to 3:30 a.m. on Tuesday, 27 May, there was an accidental fire in the Grotto of the Nativity causing only minor damage.
Bethlehem firefighters were dispatched to the grotto, but the fire was already under control by the time they arrived.
For reasons yet to be determined an oil lamp had fallen, setting fire to the wall hangings around the nativity star that is set into the floor. The fire spread rapidly toward the two side stairways, which are also draped in wall hangings.
The hangings were set aflame all the more quickly because they are permeated with soot from the long years of oil lamps burning in the grotto. However, the fire burned itself out and the woodwork was more blackened than burnt.
A few pieces of plaster did fall to the ground, however.
It will be necessary, nonetheless, for the communities responsible for the Status Quo in Bethlehem—Greek Orthodox, Franciscan for the Catholics, and Armenian—to reach agreement on the few necessary restorations.
Follow-up to the incident is already taking place in a spirit of cooperation among the communities and with the Palestinian government of Bethlehem.