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Muslims have been entrusted with the keys since 1187, primarily because the various Christian factions which reside in the church cannot agree to nearly anything, and therefore to keep the church and its shrine open, the keys are entrusted to a Muslim family.
According to historical records, and Adeeb Jawad Joudeh, who holds the keys, they have been handed down from one generation to the next, since being given to the family in 1187 by Sultan Saladin.
Notably, the ladder disappeared for several days in 1997, possibly as a prank, but it was soon returned.
An old agreement between the monks holds that nothing can be done in the church except by consensus, and that includes, amazingly enough, the movement of the ladder.
It is, in every way, a microcosm of what's wrong with the Holy Land.
A region that should be sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, is frequently at the heart of sometimes violent disputes.
The church is manned by monks from various Christian religious communities, mostly from the the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A story reported by the IPS details the strange arrangement that has dominated the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for a very long time.
Each day, the story reports, a Muslim man, and the only man with permission to wield the keys, unlocks and opens the door to the Church, while three factions within the church vie for control in disputes that frequently leave the church in disrepair and occasionally result in altercations, requiring Israeli police come to mediate the conflict.
It's not a flattering depiction of Christianity and it reveals just how much work the Church must do to heal the divisions in her midst.
For now, we can pray the status quo continues as it has since 1187, and the site remains open for all pilgrims, as it should.