#AceNewsServices – BETHLEHEM – May 27 – A fire broke out in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity early Tuesday, just hours after Pope Francis wrapped up a three-day Middle East pilgrimage which saw him visit the shrine.
Bethlehem governor Abdel-Fatah Hamayel told AFP it was a small fire which had broken out accidentally when an oil lamp fell over just before dawn, causing some damage to fabric wall hangings inside the Grotto of the Nativity itself.
“It was an accident that started when an oil lamp fell over.
The fire started on its own, then burned itself out,” he said.
The fire, which was discovered at around 4:30 am (0100 GMT) when the security guard smelled smoke, broke out in the cave underneath the 4th-century basilica where Christians believe Mary gave birth to Jesus.
Inside, the charred remains of several brightly-coloured wall hangings hung limply against the cave walls which were blackened with soot.
Two ornate icons of Mary holding Jesus sustained smoke damage.
“We have asked those who work there many times to put out the oil lamps and candles when the church closes at 6pm,” Hamayel said, adding that similar accidents had happened in the past.
Pope Francis visited the church on Sunday after celebrating an open-air mass in Bethlehem’s Manger Square at the start of the Israeli-Palestinian leg of his Middle East pilgrimage, which began in Jordan on Saturday.
Ace World News