FACT CHECK: Did The United Nations Remove The Birthplace Of Jesus From Its List Of Heritage Sites?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook claims the “U.N. cultural agency” removed the “birthplace of Jesus from its list of heritage sites.”

Verdict: False

The birthplace of Jesus remains on the U.N.’s World Heritage List. The site was removed from a list of endangered World Heritage sites in July 2019 after it underwent extensive restoration work. The image has been digitally altered.

Fact Check:

The image shows what appears to be a screen grab of a headline that reads, “UN cultural agency removes birthplace of Jesus from its list of heritage sites.” The purported news article includes a picture of a section of the Church of the Nativity, a building erected on the site where Jesus is said to have been born, according to the City of Bethlehem.

Upon closer inspection of the screen grab, it appears to have been photoshopped. A keyword search revealed the pictured headline is an altered version of a July 2019 U.N. press release that actually put up the headline: “UN cultural agency removes birthplace of Jesus from its list of heritage sites in danger.” Whoever created the altered image appears to have attempted to use white to cover up the words “in danger,” though it doesn’t match the color of the press release’s background.

The U.N. statement explains the birthplace of Jesus World Heritage site, which includes the Church of the Nativity and the pilgrimage route in Bethlehem, Palestine, was removed from the U.N.’s list of endangered World Heritage sites in July 2019. The “List of World Heritage In Danger” is for U.N.-designated World Heritage sites facing conditions that “threaten the very characteristics for which a property was inscribed on the World Heritage List,” such as deterioration of the property’s structure, lack of a conservation policy, outbreak of armed conflict, pollution and natural disasters, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

At no point does the July 2019 press release state the site lost its designation as a World Heritage site. The birthplace of Jesus was merely removed from the separate danger list after it underwent extensive restoration, according to the U.N. statement and The Times of Israel. It is still listed as a World Heritage site on the U.N.’s website. (RELATED: Did The Church Of The Holy Sepulchre Just Close For The First Time Since The Bubonic Plague?)

“The site ‘Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem’ was removed from the Danger List, but it is still on the World Heritage List,” a UNESCO spokesperson confirmed in an email to Check Your Fact.

Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Reporter
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