From 1948 to the present
If, to a certain extent, the past century for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was defined by a succession of difficulties linked to the political situation in the country, it also was the century which offered the first real prospect for meaningful agreements among the religious communities involved in the Status Quo.
During the period of Hashemite (Jordanian) control, Christians and Muslims were able to freely visit the Holy City and the church, in contrast to Jews, as the Old City was entirely contained within Jordanian territory. A royal visit was made to the site by the Jordanian King Abdullah on 27 May 1948.
During the course of works to restore the roof, at 8 pm on Wednesday 23 November 1949 a fire damaged the roofing of the great dome, and the government in Amman took immediate measures to repair it. A decisive step was taken in 1959 when negotiations among the representatives of the three principal religious communities Greek, Latin and Armenian arrived at an agreement for a major project to restore the church, and works began in 1960. This also provided the opportunity to investigate the archaeological record in a number of trenches that were opened.
The archaeological works were carried out by the Franciscan father and archaeologist of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, Virgilio Corbo. For more than twenty years Father Corbo was involved in the discovery and careful interpretation of the important material elements brought to light by the investigation of the building, an effort that culminated in 1982 with the publication of his “The Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem” which presented complete documentation on the archaeological research.
The first papal visit ever to the Holy Places took place in January 1964 when Paul VI preached before the empty Tomb. Three and a half decades later, on the occasion of Jubilee Year 2000, the blessed John Paul II made two visits in a single day, and in 2009 the Christian community was able to rejoice in the visit of the new pontiff Benedict XVI. Following the so-called Six Days War in 1967, the church of the Holy Sepulchre came under Israeli control and, still today, Israeli guards supervise the tranquil carrying out of the opening and closing of the church and the inflow of pilgrims, above all during the Easter Triduum.
The continuing dialogue among the three principal religious communities concerning the management of the common areas of the church has led to important new inaugurations, notably that of the dome towering above the Edicule unveiled to the grand emotion of the faithful, pilgrims and clergy on 2 January 1997. And, more recently, that of the indispensable areas serving as toilet facilities. Negotiations among the representatives of the religious communities are continuing, and new agreements under consideration include the restoration of the Holy Edicule and new pavement for the public areas.