TABGHA – On November 9, dozens of people assembled in the Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha, Galilee. An emotional moment, full of joy for the gathered faithful on the Feast of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes.
The sky was sunny in this place on the northwest bank of Lake Tiberias in Galilee, where biblical tradition locates the miracle of the loaves and fishes. A Palestinian village until 1948, the Bible also locates the post-Resurrection appearance of Jesus to Peter and the other six disciples in this place (John 2:1-23). The current Catholic church edifice was rebuilt almost forty years ago according to projects that respect the appearance of the original Byzantine Basilica destroyed by the earthquake of 419. The Church of the Multiplication and its surroundings today belong to the German Association of the Holy Land, led by the Archbishop of Cologne.
Archbishop Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate, was the principal celebrant of the Mass, concelebrated by Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar for Jerusalem and Palestine, Fr. Hanna Kildani, Patriarchal Vicar for Israel, and Bishop-emeritus Kamal Bathish. Also concelebrating were, Benedictine Abbot Bernard Alter, Fr. Basil Shiel, the local superior, Archbishop Youssef Matta, of the Greek Melkite Church of St. John of Acre, Haifa, and Deacon Firas Abedrabbo assisted the main celebrant. Liturgical hymnody was provided by a small German choir and the Maronite group of Gesh.
In his homily, delivered in English and translated into Arabic by Fr. Hanna Kildani, the Apostolic Administrator spoke of poverty, the context where the miracle of the loaves and fishes happened. “God needs our poverty to have room to do miracles in our life”, he said, insisting on the necessity of “making our poverty available to the Lord.” Archbishop Pizzaballa concluded his message by recalling the most important mission of the Church, which he believes is to give men “the bread of life”. Jesus does not distribute the bread; Jesus IS the bread.”
Five large baskets full of bread and a plate of fish were placed on the ground at the back of the church prior to being placed at the foot of the altar by the faithful.
Composed mainly of Palestinians, among the group of local Nazareth faithful were some foreign pilgrims, including French from the Diocese of Nîmes, who arrived for the first time in the Holy Land. “A unique occasion to begin our pilgrimage”, one of them confided. Also noteworthy was the presence of the Benedictine Sisters of Our Lady of Calvary, often referred to as the Benedictines of the Mount of Olives, the Benedictine Sisters of Jesus Christ the Eucharist King, and some Benedictine volunteers of the Noah Center.
Refreshments were then served in the beautiful garden adjacent to the Church.