Franciscan leader leery of move to make Bethlehem a UNESCO heritage site
November 21, 2011
The head of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land has concerns about a Palestinian proposal to UNESCO to make Bethlehem a World Heritage Site.
Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa explained that under UNESCO rules, a World Heritage Site must be under the control of the government. He fears a move to grant that status to the basilica of the Nativity, because it could lead eventually to nationalization of the shrine, or a politicized struggle for control. Father Pizzaballa indicated that it might be appropriate to consider the inclusion of the basilica at some future date, “when the situation, including the political situation, will be quieter.”
The Franciscan official said that Orthodox and Armenian Church leaders, who share control of the Nativity basilica with the Franciscan Custody, agree that the site should remain firmly under religious control.