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 CNS Story:

NAZARETH-MASS Apr-20-2009 (310 words) With photos. xxxi

Bulldozers at work in Nazareth; carpenters coming to papal Mass site

Architect Nizar Muammar holds plans at the construction site of a municipal amphitheater on the Mount of the Precipice in Nazareth in mid-April. (CNS/Debbie Hill)

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

NAZARETH, Israel (CNS) -- With just over three weeks to go before Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to celebrate Mass in a new municipal amphitheater in Nazareth, bulldozers were working around the clock.

Nizar Muammar, a Catholic and one of the project architects, said April 20 that the site will be ready: It will include a stage, 7,000 permanent seats and more than 30,000 temporary chairs set up on what is becoming a terraced hillside.

The covered stage, which will serve as the platform for the altar with seating for 500 cardinals, bishops and priests, was still a hole with concrete forms and reinforced beams sticking up.

The only Mass Pope Benedict is scheduled to celebrate in northern Israel during his May 8-15 pilgrimage to the Holy Land is the May 14 Mass in the amphitheater on Mount Precipice in Nazareth.

Muammar said there are three access roads to the site; there will be two big parking lots for pilgrim buses and seating for more than 40,000 people.

He said he was hoping Catholic officials would give final approval to his design for the stage, altar and papal throne.

With the roar of big machinery in the background, Muammar surveyed the site, pointed out what would go where, but he refused to reveal details about his design.

"Our motif was the story of the Annunciation and the town of Nazareth, the home of the Holy Family," he said.

He seemed to be joking when he said designers were working on getting an angel to appear, and he refused to say if the carpenters would leave their tools behind to evoke St. Joseph's trade.

The amphitheater project, funded by the city of Nazareth and the Israeli government, is creating "hundreds of jobs," he said. "We have a very tough schedule to meet, and are working around the clock."


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