Again, this is one of the things that stuck with me during the days that I was dabbling in Orthodoxy, and I’ve never quite gotten over it. According to Wikipedia, the Latins tried to summone it when they conquered Jerusalem. They failed, and this caused widespread rioting in the streets. The Catholics took this as proof that the Holy Fire was a fraud; the Orthodox, on the other hand, took it as proof that the Catholics belong to an illegitimate Church. Furthermore, Pope Gregory IX denounced the Holy Fire as a fraud, and forbade the Franciscans at the Holy Sepchre from taking part in the ceremony. This link, however, seems to be implying that that’s not what Gregory actually said, and that he was actually denouncing the practice of an entry fee into the Church for the ceremony.
What really bothers me, is that I just can’t help but feel like it’s true. No one’s really ever provided a decent explanation for it; yes, I know about the white sulphur theory, but that just doesn’t hold much weight. What’s more, the Israeli authorities search the Patriarch and the Tomb beforehand for means to light a fire with, and every time the search comes back negative. And the big reason is, mainly, that it’s been documented for over 1,000 years, and it just seems highly unlikely to me that over the course of 1,000 years not a single Patriarch would be moral enough to admit it as a fraud.
I asked my priest, and he said that there’s “no reason at all” for Catholics not to believe in the Holy Fire. And yet, Gregory’s comments keep nagging me at the back of my mind. So I guess the question is, is it OK for a Catholic to believe in the Holy Fire? And if not, how do I change my mind?