St. Peter and St. Paul at St. Peter’s, Jaffa: celebrating together | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

St. Peter and St. Paul at St. Peter’s, Jaffa: celebrating together

The leitmotiv throughout the evening of the feast-day celebrated in the sanctuary church of St. Peter in Jaffa was being together, the effort and beauty of being united, of the dream and duty to pursue unity.

The liturgical rite commemorating the two Apostles was celebrated on the evening of Saturday 27th June: the church was packed with Catholics, in Israel for work – Filipinos, Latin Americans, North Africans, Poles – and Jews from other cities as well who are also Christians full of joy for the feast day of the sanctuary. Two reasons brought together the “peoples” and the friends of the Franciscan friars to remember Peter the fisherman together with Paul the Pharisee called to announce the Gospel: the end of the Pauline year and the inauguration of the extensive renovation of the whole complex – church and convent – which is reaching its conclusion.

The concelebration of the Eucharist was presided by Father David Neuhaus, the patriarchal delegate for the Hebrew-speaking communities. with the parish priest Fr. Narcyz Klimas and the bursar of the Custody Fr. Dobromir Jasztal. There were the Guardian Fathers of St. Saviour in Jerusalem and Fr. Toufic, parish priest of St. Anthony in Jaffa. Fr. Edmunds Garret delivered the sermon and made us smile in English, whilst he underlined with great conviction that we commemorate these two apostles thanks to the age-old and authoritative wisdom of the Church. A chorus of languages, from the Latin of the prayer of the Eucharist and the Hebrew of the proclamation of the Gospel to Portuguese and Spanish, Polish and Italian … contributed to creating in the church a fine harmony which – if there had not been all that diversity - would certainly have lost in intensity and completeness.

At the end of the Mass, we all went to the former refectory, crossing the corridor of the sacristy, where the attention to detail which guided the renovation of this important Sanctuary could already be seen. The decoration of the ceilings is the same in all these rooms: through the ancient lamps tell the loving service that the Friars have devoted to each Holy Place for many centuries. In the former refectory, which has now become a spacious and luminous room for lectures, and gladly accepts being a place of conviviality for the different communities that meet here (the new adjoining kitchen, well equipped and spacious, is for the preparation of food), Fr. Dobromir blessed “the works” and the participants, delighted to be there, were visibly proud of “their” new church. The different tables had been put together to form one large table, with “ethnic” and local food: all together everybody celebrated everything!

The major and unfortunately long works concerned the whole of the exterior of the complex, which had been greatly damaged by time and the damp due to the nearby sea. St. Peter-Jaffa truly looked as though it had been reborn: luminous, welcoming and much more functional than before. On the ground floor, there are the various rooms for the communities, the library, the Chapel for small celebrations, the inner courtyard and the bathrooms and kitchen can be said to be finished. The floor of the convent is also at a good stage, but the works continue: the furniture will arrive this week and the renovation will continue. Let’s hope … that the official and final inauguration takes place very soon, certain that St. Peter (together with St. Paul) continue to watch over the communities of Christians who live in the Holy Land.