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> Denominational Rights and Religious Rites
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Denominational Rights and Religious Rites
submitted by Turathuna Bethlehem University

Every denomination retaining rights in the Church of the Nativity is most careful to defend these rights. The (status quo) is minutely applied owing to the great holiness and importance of the place.

The part of the Church of the Nativity which is under the control of the Greek Orthodox is supervised and defended by a Bishop or an Archimandrite as well as assistants including deacons and monks. All of them are Greeks. They participate with the Arab Orthodox clergy, in religious occasions, celebrations and rites. They live in the Greek Orthodox Convent adjacent to the Church from the south - eastern direction.

Patriarchs, bishops, deacons and monks must be bachelors. But the Greek Orthodox Arab clergy must be married before their ordination. They have the right to be promoted to higher clerical ranks.

Among the Latins, however, all members of the clergy must be bachelors, including the Arab clergy. Arab clergy have the right to be promoted to the rank of patriarch. Armenian and Syriac Catholics, Abyssinians and Copts do not marry. The Arab Orthodox clergy from Bethlehem town itself are appointed to hold prayers regularly. Prayers are held in both Greek and Arabic languages. The Orthodox holds prayers daily at certain times, inside the Nativity Grotto and in the Church, either above the Nativity Grotto or in the nave.

The Greeks place religious pictures and icons of Christ, Virgin Mary, the Apostles, Saints and others on the iconostasis of temples, but they do not place religious statues in their churches. The Latins used to place pictures and religious statues in their churches until 1973 when placing such religious statues was abolished.

The sign of the cross is made by the Greek Orthodox by bringing together three fingers of the right hand, namely, the thumb, the forefinger and the middle finger. The sign of the cross is made starting from the forehead to the chest, then to the right and to the left while the following is repeated:

"In the name of God, the Son and the Holy Ghost the One God, Amen". However, when the sign of the cross is made by the Latins, they use the five fingers of the right hand, joined together, beginning from the forehead, the chest, and the left and then the right.

Among the Greek Orthodox and the Latins, confession rites before taking the Holy Eucharist, have been simplified. Among the Greek Orthodox the Eucharist is still in accordance with the old way, as wine is placed in the Eucharist chalice together with small pieces of holy bread. The priest presents to the person a small amount of wine and holy bread on a spoon. The Latins immerse the small leaven host called "burshane" into the wine.

Source:"Bethlehem, The Immortal Town" by Giries Elali

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