The feast day of the Primacy of Peter on the shores of the Sea of Galilee

The feast day of the Primacy of Peter on the shores of the Sea of Galilee

The Franciscans celebrate the role of Peter in the Church in the shrine of Tabgha

On the shores of the Sea of Galilee,  in Tabgha, a small church built of dark stone is in the care of the Franciscans: tradition has it that the events of what is known as the “Primacy of Peter” took place here and are remembered by the community on 17 May, as every year, at the end of the Easter time.

Fr. Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land, presided over the Eucharistic celebration together with Fr. Miguel Ramírez Arévalo, Superior of the community of Tabgha, Nikodemus Schnabel OSB abbot of the Abbey of the Dormition in Jerusalem and priests from Galilee.

Was also a large participation by the community of the parish of Nazareth, who again wanted to be present at the solemnity this year and they were joined by many religious.

The story of the Primacy of Peter

Chapter Twenty-One of the Gospel according to John relates how Peter, defeated and humiliated after having denied the Master during the trial that condemned him to death, went to fish on the Lake of Tiberias, followed by other disciples. The night passed without a catch but at dawn, after having followed the words of the Risen Lord, who appeared on the lake (“Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something’) the so-called “miraculous” catch occurred.

Here again the Master, eating with the disciples, asked Peter three times if he loved him more than the other disciples. And for three times, the same number of times he denied him, Peter answered in the affirmative. Jesus then gave Peter the authority, the Primacy: “Feed my lambs.”

The Primacy of Peter in Tabgha

The Primacy of Peter commemorates that episode: in the building of modest proportions, which looks on to the Lake of Tiberias with its small bell tower, three small windows in the neo-gothic style appear on the gabled façade, completed by a sober and slightly splayed portal. Owned by the Franciscans since the end of the 19th century,  the land on which the chapel stands could not be built on until 1934.

The solemn Mass

“It was on these shores that the dialogue between Jesus and Peter took place, through which Jesus gave him the task of carrying out his mission of “care” for his lambs,” fr. Ibrahim Sabbagh, parish priest of the Church of the Most Holy Annunciation on Nazareth said at the beginning of his homily. “What is behind this care and this mission entrusted to Peter? It is based on love for Jesus Christ. Peter did not have the right knowledge or the languages, to be a shepherd... What Jesus asks is none other than love for Him, an intimate relationship with Him.”

“Today,” fr. Ibrahim continued, “Jesus is asking each of us here “if we love him more than the others.”  On the basis of this love, we have been called as disciples, and only on his love are we called to love what has been entrusted to us, whether they are works or people. Today as well we answer with the feelings of our heart, telling him: You know everything, you know that I love you...”

During the Mass, the chalice given by St Pope Paul VI on his visit to the lake as the first successor of St Peter to be a pilgrim to the Holy Land,  in 1974, was used.

At the end of the celebration, Fr. Miguel Ramírez, superior of the community of Tabgha, wanted to express his sincere thanks to all the families present and to all those who allowed the success of the feast-day, to the confrères and the religious who dealt with the liturgy, to the choir that sang the celebration and to the fraternity of Tabgha.

The rock called Mensa Christi

The solemnity came to an end with the procession to the church, which is a short distance but full of meaning: inside there is the rock called Mensa Christi, which according to tradition is the one on which Jesus, after the miraculous catch, prepared the food for his disciples and conferred the primacy on Peter. The rock was incensed and before the solemn blessing given by the Custos, fr. Mátyás Tarsoly proclaimed the Gospel relative to the memory of this site.

Silvia Giuliano


Silvia Giuliano