TABGHA – On Sunday, February 12, 2017, His Eminence Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki, Archbishop of Cologne, presided over a Mass in the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish in Tabgha, to celebrate the restoration of the Church Atrium that was destroyed by arson perpetrated by Jewish extremists on June 18, 2015.
Mass concelebrants were: Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Nuncio in Israel; Archbishop George Bacouni, Greek Catholic Archbishop of Akka; Bishop Giacinto Boulos Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar in Israel; Father Nikodemus Schnabel, OSB, Prior-Administrator of Dormition Abbey and the Tabgha Monastery; Father David Neuhaus, SJ, Patriarchar Vicar for the Hebrew speaking Catholics; Father Dobromir Jasztal, Vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land; and many other priests. Also present for the re-dedication ceremony were the Israeli president Reuven Rivlin, Muslim, Druze and Jewish religious leaders.
In his homily, Cardinal Woelki affirmed that “in a time of growing nationalism, we need reconciliation and a life derived from the Gospel”. He added “powerful people all over the world today fuel nationalist ideas more than ever before, giving them a religious framework. In this way, they foster demarcation and, in particular, lead young people to hatred and violence.”
“As Christians, we are called upon to give a concrete form to God’s kingdom and justice through our actions” the Cardinal added.
President Reuven Rivlin also spoke at the ceremony and thanked everyone involved in the restoration work. “I want to thank all the people who worked hard to restore this place, and to say clearly; that hate cannot win” he said.
The Church of the Multiplication was hit by an arson attack on June 18, 2015, perpetrated by a Jewish extremist group known as “Price Tag”. An elderly Benedictine monk and a young German volunteer were injured and transported to the hospital from toxic smoke inhalation. This was not the first time the Church was attacked. On April 27, 2014, young extremist Jews desecrated crosses and an altar in the property.
The estimated damage from the arson reached more than one million euros. The Benedictine monks received about 900,000 euros in donations, while the Israeli authorities compensated for 370,000 euros.