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File photo of the vandalized cross near Lake Tiberias (photo credit: G. Röwekamp DVHL) File photo of the vandalized cross near Lake Tiberias (photo credit: G. Röwekamp DVHL) 

Holy Land: Vandals remove iron cross from altar in Tabgha

Vandals have attacked Church property in the Holy Land, with unknown persons detaching an iron cross from a stone altar at the Benedictine monastery in the village of Tabgha.

By Vatican News staff reporter

The village of Tabgha lies on the shores of Lake Tiberias and is home to a monastery run by German Benedictines.

Tradition holds that this is the site where Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, and where He confirmed the Primacy of Peter.

On the night of 18 August, unknown vandals tore down a wrought-iron cross that sat atop an outdoor stone altar marking the spot of the miracle.

The Benedictines discovered the act of vandalism the next day. DVHL, a German Association for the Holy Land, which has linked German Catholics to places in the Holy Land for a century and a half and owns the land where the event took place, reported the incident.

Firmly-rooted cross, not an accident

According to the website of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, the cross was well-anchored to the altar’s basalt slab, and removing it would have required a lot of force.

The responsible parties would have likely arrived from the beach or perhaps on a boat from the lake.

Given the dynamics of the incident, it is highly likely that it was no accident but a deliberate act of vandalism.

Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes
Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes

Non-surveilled area

The incident was immediately reported to the Israeli police. However, surveillance cameras monitoring the monastery did not capture the assailants.

Although the altar lies on the same property, it is not included in the monitoring system of the monastery.

Firm condemnation

The spokesman for the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, Wadie Abunassar, condemned the episode as a “hateful act that seems to have been committed by people who hate the cross. We call on the police to seriously investigate and bring those responsible to justice."

Abunassar also expressed suspicion that the vandals entered the monastery property from the lake by boat and "intended to take the cross away and hide it."

Map of the area
Map of the area

Respect for symbols of other faiths

The Catholic Ordinaries requested that state, religious, and educational authorities commit to teaching everyone to respect the symbols and beliefs of others.

“We pray that God will enlighten the minds of those who harbor hatred and guide them on the path of love and respect for all His creatures,” read the statement.

2015 arson at nearby church

Tabgha is also home to a shrine dedicated to the Miracle of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes and that of the Primacy of Peter.

The shrine church, which is also owned by the German Benedictines of the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem, was set ablaze on the night of 18 June 2015. The fire caused severe damage to the building, and vandals wrote on the church’s walls Hebrew writing denouncing "the worship of idols."

File photo of the 2015 arson attack on the church
File photo of the 2015 arson attack on the church

Fire set by young Jewish ultranationalist

The investigation into the 2015 arson led to the arrest of two young Jewish men linked to an ultranationalist movement called "The Youth of the Hills," which has been active since 2013 and is characterized by anti-Christian attitudes.

Yinon Reuveni (then 20-years-old) was found guilty of that incident in 2017, while Yehuda Asraf (19-years-old at the time) was acquitted of charges of complicity.

25 August 2021, 11:18