High-ranking Catholic churchmen dedicated a new cloister on May 17 at a Benedictine monastery built at the site where Jesus miraculously multiplied loaves and fishes.
At the dedication, the retired Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah said the monastery is "a new witness of the presence of God in the life of this land, a new spiritual actor in the life of this land, a new spiritual companion of all the inhabitants of this land, Jews, Christians, Muslims and Druzes, all of us in search of God, as we are in search of peace."
Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne, France and the apostolic nuncio to Israel Archbishop Antonio Franco participated in the event with several other bishops, including the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Nazareth.
Patriarch Sabbah represented his successor, Patriarch Fouad Twal.
Before the dedication, Cardinal Meisner celebrated a Pontifical Mass in the Monastery Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes in Tabgha on the Sea of Galilee.
Six monks from the Benedictine Priory of the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem, which has been based in Tabgha since 1939, will use the new cloister.
The monastery was rebuilt because the old building from the 1950s was built without foundations. It was dilapidated and in danger of collapse in a region where earthquakes are common.
Cardinal Meisner is president of the German Union of the Holy Land, the builder and owner of the monastery site.
He told Aid to the Church in Need that the monks are "the men of Galilee who look up to Heaven, just as at the Ascension of the Lord.
"That is their service. Thus they help us to ensure that Heaven is not forgotten."
Because summer temperatures in the area can reach 122 degrees, Aid to the Church in Need provided $63,850 to build a small air-conditioned summer oratory inside the cloister for monks to escape the heat and the noise of visitors.
Patriarch Sabbah said that a monastery that prays is a "vital necessity" everywhere, but particularly in the Holy Land where "God manifested himself."
The residents of the Holy Land are "still living in a long painful conflict situation that needs reconciliation with God and among themselves," he continued.
"Here the land needs to know and to see the real human being, created by God on His image, capable of love as God loves, in order to find the ways of peace and of a real human peaceful life."