New Holy Land Spirituality Center Inaugurated

Leading Church Figures Present at Launch of Magdala Center’s Construction

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The inauguration of the first phase in the construction of a spirituality center and archaeological park on the shores of Lake Galilee took place Wednesday in the presence of 600 people, including authorities of the State of Israel, representatives of the different Christian confessions in the Holy Land, and members of the Muslim community.

The Latin Patriarch, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, the apostolic nuncio to Israel, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto and the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa were among those taking part in the inauguration of the Magdala Center, on the site of the ruins of the town’s synagogue.

The Center is located on the most important archaeological discovery of the century, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority,

The event began with words from Fr. Juan Solana, a priest of the Legionaries of Christ and the director of the Magdala Center.  Dr. Gideon Talgam, sub-director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, also addressed those present: “This project has fallen into the best hands possible.  The developer and the archeologists have worked together.  Foreign universities such as Universidad Anáhuac del Sur and the Universidad Autónoma de México have been involved in the investigation.  This is something unique.” 

One of the most solemn moments of the inauguration was the singing of Psalm 117 by Rabbi Ehud Bandel.  The psalm says: “Praise the Lord, all you nations; proclaim him all you peoples.”  Afterwards, the Melchite priest Maron proclaimed, in Greek, the gospel that recounts Jesus’ preaching in the synagogues of Galilee, curing the sick. 

The mayor of Migdal, Israel Ambrosi, addressed those in attendance in Hebrew, inviting them to continue seeking cooperation between Jews and Christians.  At the same time, he said that the new site is a blessing in his city. 

A few seminarians of the Legionaries of Christ performed musical pieces during the event. 

The ceremony concluded with the cutting of the ribbon to inaugurate the park.  The ribbon was cut by the Nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Ahuva Zaken from the ministry of tourism, Dina Gorni Avshalom, the project’s archeologist, Carlos Fernandez, representing the benefactors, and Fr. Juan Solana.  

Other people who cooperated in the project also received recognition, especially the archeologists, among whom was the Mexican Marcela Zapata, of the Universidad Anáhuac del Sur and of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, both in Mexico City. 

The Latin Patriarch consecrated the Duc in Altum Church.  Four bishops and around 40 priests accompanied him as concelebrants.  There were also representatives of the Greek Orthodox Church, the Church of Scotland and other Christian confessions.  Some Jews also participated in the ceremony. 

Fr. Juan Solana and the architect Rodolfo de la Garza gave the patriarch the keys to the new church, a sign that the building is being dedicated to the worship of God.  The chapel finds its inspiration in the ministry of Christ on the Sea of Galilee and in the preponderant role of women in evangelization and the life of the Church. 

“In the atrium, each pillar bears the name of a woman from the gospel.  But there is one with no name.  It is dedicated to all the women who are pillars in their own families and who hand on the faith,” said architect De la Garza.  

During the ceremony, the patriarch thanked Fr. Solana, Regnum Christi and the Legionaries of Christ for their contribution to the Church.  “I hope that, for the thousands of pilgrims who visit this place, it will be an opportunity to experience God made man who walked in these lands,” said Archbishop Twal.

“We believe that, just as Mary Magdalene experienced God’s mercy, as well many pilgrims will experience the love of God,” said Fr. Solana.  “The altar is in the shape of a boat because Christ taught his disciples from a boat.  We hope that whoever comes here will have the same experience.  While it’s true that the boat is an imitation, the presence of Christ in the Eucharist truly is real, in the tabernacle that Pope Francis blessed on Monday,” Fr. Solana added. 

The project of the Magdala Center has several phases.  The first has been inaugurated, but a hotel for pilgrims and a restaurant are still to be constructed.  The archeological park and the Spirituality Center with the Duc in Altum Church and 4 other chapels as well as an all-faiths chapel have been finished. 

“The archaeological discoveries of this center unite us to both Jews and Christians.  The Magdala Center is called to foster reflection on the role of women in the Church and in society,” said Fr. Solana, adding that funds are still needed “to build the hotel for pilgrims and other installations.”

At the end of the Mass, Fr. Solana thanked the architects, artists and other people who helped with the Magdala Center project.  “Working together has been an extraordinary experience, though it has been a challenge to communicate at times.  Today we are very happy that this dream is a reality.” 

He also thanked Patriarch Twal for his presence and the benefactors from around the world who had made the inauguration of the Magdala Center possible. 

The archeological discoveries of Magdala offer an opportunity to scientifically explore the relationship between Jews and Christians of the first century.  Two Mexican universities have carried out the archeological project: the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, in Mexico City, and Anáhuac University.

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