The Holy Fire and Catholicism

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?

Its non-salvific issue, i.e. salvation does not depend on whether you believe it or not. The Church holds no official stance on it.

I have witnessed the Holy Fire in Jerusalem. It was an awesome mystical and spiritual experience. Personally, I don’t believe it to be fraud.

It must be noted that when this phenomena FIRST started the Orthodox and Catholics were ONE Church.

Has a film crew ever been permitted inside the room where this Holy Fire originates?

The Shroud has been subjected to the best testing that science can muster.

If it’s legit, then what is there to hide? Show the world on video tape.

It must be noted that when this phenomena FIRST started the Orthodox and Catholics were ONE Church.

The Holy Fire was approved by the Catholic Church and Catholics participated in it for centuries.

There isn’t exactly room for a camera crew inside the aedicule. It’s ridiculously tiny.

But it could be done. What’s to hide-besides the truth?

I looked around online and found this…

**In 1238, Pope Gregory IX denounced the Holy Fire as a fraud.

In 2005 in a live demonstration on Greek television, Michael Kalopoulos, author and historian of religion, dipped three candles in white phosphorus. The candles spontaneously ignited after approximately 20 minutes due to the self-ignition properties of white phosphorus when in contact with air. According to Kalopoulos’ website:

If phosphorus is dissolved in an appropriate organic solvent, self-ignition is delayed until the solvent has almost completely evaporated. Repeated experiments showed that the ignition can be delayed for half an hour or more, depending on the density of the solution and the solvent employed.

Kalopoulos also points out that knowledge of chemical reactions of this nature was well known in ancient times, quoting Strabo, who states “In Babylon there are two kinds of naphtha springs, a white and a black. The white naphtha is the one that ignites with fire.” (Strabon Geographica 16.1.15.1-24) He further states that phosphorus was used by Chaldean magicians in the early fifth century BC, and by the ancient Greeks, in a way similar to its supposed use today by the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem.4
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