BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) -- Preparations for a long-needed
renovation of the 1,500-year-old Church of the Nativity are moving
ahead in Bethlehem, the town of Jesus' birth, despite religious
conflicts that have kept the basilica in a state of decay for centuries.
The first and most urgent repair, initiated by the Palestinian government in the West Bank, is to replace the building's roof. Ancient wooden beams pose a danger to visitors, officials say, and
leaks have already ruined many of the church's priceless mosaics and paintings.
If the repairs go ahead as planned next year, it will be the first time the church has seen major renovation work in more than 150 years.
The Church of the Nativity is shared by three Christian sects -- Catholics, Greek Orthodox and Armenians -- who have traditionally
viewed each other with suspicion and are wary of upsetting the brittle status quo that governs the site.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)