Vatican in deal with Israel to look after Last Supper room

The Vatican is hoping to regain stewardship over the room of the Last Supper in Jerusalem, one of the most sacred sites in Christianity.

The Australian reports that in exchange, it will give to the Jewish community the historic synagogue at Toledo, in Spain, which is currently a Catholic church.

The proposals, contained in a draft agreement between the Israeli Government and the Vatican, come on the eve of a state visit to the Vatican next month by Israeli President Moshe Katzav.

Final details of a long-delayed accord on Catholic properties in the Holy Land are expected to be agreed during the visit, marking reconciliation between Christians and Jews after centuries of hostility.

The Upper Room, where the Last Supper is said to have taken place, is held by Christians to be the place where Jesus broke bread and drank wine with his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion, and where the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples at Pentecost.

The room of the Last Supper is the fourth most holy place in Christendom after the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, built over Christ's tomb; the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, where the Virgin Mary was told by an angel she was to give birth; and the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where the birth of Jesus took place.

The present Gothic-arched room is not the original but was built by the Crusaders in the 14th century. It was taken over in 1342 by the Franciscans, the Catholic custodians of Christian sites in the Holy Land.

The room fell with the rest of Jerusalem to the Ottoman Turks in the 16th century and was made into a mosque, where Arabic inscriptions are still visible.

Israel, Vatican in sacred swap (The Australian 14/10/05)

Pope: 'may Jerusalem be a place of communion among religions' (Independent Catholic News 13/10/05)

14 Oct 2005