Celebrating Peter’s Primacy in Tabgha

Celebrating Peter’s Primacy in Tabgha

On 26 May, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, the Franciscan community of the Custody of the Holy Land commemorated the celebration which, from the events that took place here, takes the name of “Peter’s Primacy.”

It was in Tabgha, a small town not far from Capernaum, that Jesus, eating with the disciples, asked Peter three times if he loved him more than the other disciples - and three times, the same number as his betrayals, Peter answered in the affirmative. Jesus then gave Peter the authority, the “Primacy”: “Feed my sheep.”

Very many faithful and pilgrims, from Galilee but also from Jerusalem, wanted to take part in the eucharistic celebration presided by Fr. Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land,  in front of the small shrine of the “Church of the Primacy”. This small church built in dark stone has a gabled façade on which there are three neo-Gothic style windows. Inside the church there is a rock, called Mensa Christi, which according to  tradition, is the one on which Jesus, after the miraculous catch of fish, prepared breakfast for his disciples and conferred the primacy on Peter. The name of the place – Tabgha – is probably an Arabic word which comes from the Greek Heptapegon, which means “seven springs.”

“Here we remember the episodes of the miraculous catch and of the three questions Jesus asked the apostle Peter “Do you love me?” said fr. Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land. “Jesus then confirmed him as shepherd and as the leader of the flock of the Church. This primacy is clearly based on his love for Jesus: without a relation with Him, there can be no primacy. At the end of that conversation, Jesus said “Follow me”: this means that Jesus called the apostle to follow him only after Peter had entered into a relationship of love with him.”

“We have to pray for our Pope Francis, for all the heads of the communities and for the ecclesiastical authorities, but also for all the fathers and mothers of families and all the civilians who hold positions of responsibility in the world,” fr. Ibrahim Sabbagh, parish priest of the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, emphasized in his homily, “because they are all called to “feed the flock,” which has been entrusted to them, but they have to do so without thinking of their own personal interests and without tyrannizing others. On the contrary, they are called to serve them, giving their life for their sheep. The celebration of the Primacy must focus in the first place on the word “charity”: Peter’s task is not a task of power, but a task of love and service for the community he was summoned to guide.”

At the end of the celebration, Fr. Teofil Maciej Niewinski, superior of the community of  Tabgha, wanted to express his sincere thanks to all those who had allowed the success of the celebration, his brothers and the religious who dealt with the liturgy, the choir who sang during the celebration and the fraternity of Tabgha, fr. Giordano and all the workers who every day work hard and together in the service to pilgrims in this holy place.

Lastly, the assembly went in a procession to the church of the Mensa Christi, a short path full of meaning: it was here that the Gospel according to John was proclaimed, which also allowed hearing the echo of Jesus’s words: “Peter, do you love me? Feed my sheep.”

Silvia Giuliano