On Friday 6 July in the Church of Gethsemane, in the Garden of Olives, an encounter took place between the Italian Consul General in Jerusalem, Giampaolo Cantini, the Custos of the Holy Land, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa and economist of the Custody, Father Ibrahim Faltas. The theme of the day was the visit to the site where the restoration of the mosaics in the church is taking place.
The project “Gethsemane: preserving the present and shaping the future” is being coordinated by ATS pro Terra Sancta and the Mosaic Center of Jericho, with the assistance of the Palestinian Municipalities Support Program (PMSP) of the Italian Consulate. After the explanations – offered by ATS pro Terra Sancta collaborators Carla Benelli and Osama Hamdan − of the architectural stratification of the site, which over the centuries has seen a Byzantine church succeeded by a Crusader structure and finally the current church designed by the Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi, the consul and the Custos of the Holy Land climbed up on the scaffolding to reach the first dome which is being restored. Here they saw the works under way and met the youngsters who over the next fourteen months will be involved in this activity. In addition to the restoration and preservation of mosaics, the involvement of ATS pro Terra Sancta includes training young people from Jerusalem by means of both theoretical lessons and a practical course in restoration: there is in fact a shortage of specialists in the field of mosaic restoration and this training will help to avoid the need for dramatic interventions in the future.
The guests continued their visit by going up to the roof of the church and observing its façade, both of which have suffered damages in some places due to water leaks. The Consul and the Custos expressed considerable interest in the project, which seeks to increase awareness among both the local population and internationally of the historical importance of this place, primarily through guided tours for local schools and tourists. The meeting then came to an end in the adjoining garden, among the ancient olive trees which have handed down in an everlasting manner the testimony of one of the most important Places linked to the passion of Christ.