TIBERIAS, Israel, JAN. 14, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The Neocatechumenal Way has opened a chapel at its Domus Galilaeae International Center, a facility seen by its director as “a bridge with the whole Jewish tradition.”
Latin-rite Patriarch Michael Sabbah of Jerusalem presided over the dedication of the chapel on Sunday. The center is located on the Mount of the Beatitudes here.
Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio in Israel; Father Giovanni Battistelli, Franciscan Custodian of the Holy Land; and professors of Jerusalem’s biblical universities, as well as representatives of ecclesial movements, attended the ceremony, together with the founders of the Neocatechumenal Way — Kiko Argüello, Carmen Hernández, and Father Mario Pezzi.
“According to many exegetes, from this place the apostles were sent by Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth to proclaim the Gospel,” the director of the center, Father Rino Rossi, told Vatican Radio.
Recalling highlights of the ceremony, Father Rossi added: “The Lord has also given us the grace to have many relics of martyrs and saints of many places of the world, among them St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony, St. Ignatius of Loyola; it was as if precisely in this place, there was an echo of the apostles’ evangelization throughout the world, which has given fruits of holiness.”
The dedication of the new chapel took place in the context of a meeting of 250 “itinerants” of the Neocatechumenal Way, representing 108 countries.
A giant fresco in the apse, painted last summer by Kiko Argüello in the tradition of Eastern iconography, depicts the Last Judgment.
In the early 1980s, the Custody of the Holy Land offered the Neocatechumenal Way the possibility of building, on a plot located on the Mount of the Beatitudes, a center of formation, studies and retreats, an endeavor of particular interest for the Church and for Israel.
Ever since hearing about the Domus Galilaeae project in 1994, John Paul II has been enthusiastic about it, seeing in it a service for all peoples and “for the whole Church.” The Pope blessed the Shrine of the Word in the Center in March 2000.
In Domus Galilaeae, Christians, especially priests and seminarians, will be able to be in direct contact with the living tradition of Israel, following in the footsteps of St. Justin, Origen, St. Jerome and many other Fathers of the Church, who returned to Jewish sources to understand the meaning of Jewish prayer, celebrations and liturgies which daily nourished Jesus.
“Without foreseeing it, the center is also awakening great interest among Jews,” Father Rossi said. “There are, in fact, very many Jews who come to visit us, because there are aspects of the building that refer to our roots as Christians and are situated in the Jewish tradition. Therefore, this center hopes to be a bridge with the whole Jewish tradition.”
With the passing of time, “other possibilities are being envisioned, as there are many episcopal conferences that are requesting its availability for meetings, conferences or international gatherings at the theological and biblical level,” the director of the center revealed.
Domus Galilaeae is located near the summit of the mountain known as the Beatitudes, which rises in front of Lake Tiberias, above Tabgha, the place of the first multiplication of loaves, and Capernaum.
The Neocatechumenal Way, approved as a way of Christian initiation for the rediscovery of baptism, is active in more than 900 dioceses.