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Lebanese Town Lays Claim To Jesus Christ's First Miracle
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Lebanese Town Lays Claim To Jesus Christ's First Miracle

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QANA, Lebanon - With six stone wine pots and other evidence,

archaeologists in Lebanon contend that a village in the

southern hills was the site of Jesus Christ's first miracle

- turning water into wine.

Despite the possible benefits for tourism, the claim isn't

making everyone happy in Qana, where some Muslim fundamentalists

see the claim as blasphemous. Troops now patrol the village

and even government officials are taking sides.

Tradition has it that Kfar Kanna, a small Arab village near

the Sea of Galilee in Israel, was where Jesus turned six

pots of water into wine at a wedding party. Kfar Kanna is

about 4 1/2 miles northeast of Nazareth, Jesus' hometown.

According to the Gospel of St. John in the Bible, the wedding

took place in "Cana of Galilee."

Lebanese archaeologist Youssef Hourani, a specialist on

Canaanite culture, is convinced the real Cana is Qana, a

mostly Muslim town 15 miles west of the Israeli border and

southeast of the port city of Tyre.

Qana is built around a hill that contains a grotto sanctuary

called Al-Jaleel. It is at the sanctuary that, Hourani believes,

the wedding took place and Jesus spent the night.

In 1969, Hourani discovered weather-battered rock carvings

depicting Jesus and his 12 disciples in Qana. Smaller Christian

engravings, including one resembling a bride, are on rocks

nearby.

He says his theory is supported by the discovery of six

large stone water pots by a Qana peasant two decades ago.

Hourani, a Greek Catholic, maintains these were the ones

Christ used. His claim is supported by the Greek Catholic

Church.

"The miracle occurred in Qana and we've plenty of documentation

to prove it," he said. "The presence of the figures in

a place so isolated cannot be explained without accepting

that the early Christians were in the same area."

He is supported by another expert, Italian scholar Martinieno

Roncaglia, librarian of Beirut's German Oriental Institute

for Islamic Studies.

"According to historical documents and after thorough studies

which required visits to Cana in Galilee and Qana in Lebanon,

I strongly believe that Jesus' first miracle took place

in Qana," Roncaglia said.

The Rev. Jerome Murphy O'Connor, author of the best-selling

book "The Holy Land" and a leading biblical archaeologist,

is not so sure.

"You have a dozen towns called Canaan," he said in Jerusalem.

"There's the traditional spot between Nazareth and the

lake known as Galilee. But it's probably just a pious guess.

There's nothing precise in any text that would tie it down."

Undeterred, Tourism Minister Nicola Fattoush announced Nov.

25 that Qana "is regarded as a religious sanctuary . . .

proven by the findings and sculptures depicting Jesus and

his disciples."

The government, mindful no doubt of the sectarian passions

of the 1975-90 civil war between Christians and Muslims,

has sent a 100-man company of troops to Qana to prevent

any trouble.

Most of Qana's 10,000 inhabitants are Shiite Muslims. Some

are excited about the business Christian pilgrims will bring.

Others are not.

Sheik Badreddine Sayegh, the local religious leader, takes

particular exception to the nature of Christ's miracle.

"Anyone who turns water into wine is an infidel," the

90-year-old patriarch huffed. Islam forbids the drinking

of alcohol.

Nabih Berri, Lebanon's Parliament speaker and leader of

the secular Shiite Amal movement, also declared Qana a biblical

site and told the Shiite villagers they must not allow "extremists

and fanatics" to take over.

Berri now wants to turn the site into a Christian shrine.

The Muslim owner of the land, Mohammed Ali Amer, has said

he has placed the 150,600-square-foot piece of property

at Berri's disposal.

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