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MAGDALA – On Saturday, April 22, 2017, the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene was celebrated on the shores of Lake Tiberias, on the archaeological site of Magdala, during a solemn Mass presided by Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.  Many faithful from the region and pilgrims from around the world were present.

The new Magdala Center, run by the Legionaries of Christ, fascinates archaeologists, Jews as well as Christians, pilgrims, and tourists, who have the chance to discover a synagogue of the first century and the ruins of a village on the banks of the Sea of Galilee. The archaeological park and the sanctuary, whose Duc in Altum Center of Prayer was inaugurated and consecrated in May 2014 by His Beatitude Patriarch (now Emeritus) Fouad Twal, has already hosted many groups for visits. A hotel and a restaurant are being built to accommodate families on pilgrimage.

It was in this place, among the remains of her home village in Magdala, that the feast of St. Mary Magdalene was celebrated on Saturday, April 22, 2017. The liturgical memory of St. Mary Magdalene has been elevated to the rank of feast in the Roman calendar by Pope Francis, by a decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on June 10, 2016. A news received with special joy by the faithful of the Holy Land, who can now celebrate this feast in the very place, in the Duc in Altum sanctuary of Magdala. A shrine where Mary Magdalene and the group of women who followed and served Jesus with the greatest devotion. 

The liturgical commemoration of the saint, elevated to the level of a feast, is usually celebrated on July 22.  In the Holy Land, because of the overwhelming summer heat, which makes it more difficult for any major gathering at that time, an exception was granted by the Patriarchal Vicar in Israel, Bishop Marcuzzo.  This is why it was decided to celebrate the feast of St. Mary Magdalene on the first Saturday after Easter.

Mass this year was celebrated by the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pizzaballa, concelebrated by the Archbishop of Tunis Ilario Antoniazzi;  Apostolic Nuncio in Israel, Archbishop Lazzarotto; Bishop Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar; Bishop Bathish, Patriarchal Vicar Emeritus; Fr. Juan Solana LC, in charge of the Magdala Center project, and several priests in the Galilee area.

Before a large gathering of faithful from all over the country and the world, Archbishop Pizzaballa, in his homily (full text in Italian) referred to the sanctity of Mary Magdalene, the first to whom the risen Christ appeared and who “represents the sinful and forgiven humanity “as well as” the alliance re-established between God and man. ” The Archbishop drew a parallel between the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, and the Church: “The Virgin Mary is Mother of the Church and our mother (…). Mary Magdalene is the figure of the Church, made of sinners, who are at the same time reconciled with the Father by the presence of the risen Christ.”  As “forgiven sinners,” concluded Archbishop Pizzaballa, in this vigil of  Mercy Sunday, “let us ask Mary Magdalene to intercede for us and lead us to the joy of the Risen Lord.”

The Mass was animated by the Magnificat choir of the Custody of the Holy Land. At the end of the celebration, a buffet of fruits and pastries was served by the volunteers of the Magdala Center. A strong and dedicated team of people who take turns throughout the year to maintain the archaeological site and welcome the pilgrims.

Myriam Ambroselli

Photos : © Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem

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