|Guests at the Magdala Gala look at a reproduction of the Magdala Stone.|
Denver, Colorado, June 22, 2011 -- Bridge-building is not usually
a part of the science of archeology, but on June
8, 2011, in the city of Denver, Colorado, it certainly
An archeological dig in the Holy Land was the focus
of an event that brought members of different religions together
in support of “bridge-building” between Christians, Jews and other faiths.
This event was The Galilee Gala held at the Denver
Museum of Natural Science. The purpose of the event was
to support the Magdala Project and a significant discovery of
an ancient synagogue there.
The first century synagogue
was found during construction of the Magdala Center, located on
the site of the ancient city of Magdala. Considered one
of the oldest ever discovered in northern Israel, the synagogue
contained a large limestone rock with carvings of Jewish symbols
including a seven branched menorah, thought to be the oldest
sculpted depiction of the image on stone.
|Rabbi Richard Rheins, poses with Dr. James Ryan, winner of the Bridge Builders Award.|
The Magdala Project
will include preserving and exhibiting the ruins of the synagogue
as well as construction of a hotel for pilgrims to
the Holy Land. The hotel will feature a multimedia center
on the life of Jesus and the history of the
land, and is also intended to promote the vocation and
dignity of women, inspired by the figure of Mary Magdalene.
Because of its inter-religious significance, the Magdala Center and synagogue
are expected to draw countless pilgrims after its planned opening
in December, 2012.
More than 270 people representing various religious denominations
attended The Galilee Gala, which reportedly raised about $220,000 for
During the event, the first ever “Bridge Builders
Award” was presented to Dr. Jim Ryan, Executive Director of
the Colorado Council of Churches.
The award itself features an
icon of two chalices and bread, images found on the
|The Very Reverend Father Peter Eaton, Dean of Saint John’s Cathedral, Denver poses with His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah, Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Denver.|
Magdala stone in the ancient synagogue. A “replica” of the
unique stone was transported to Denver and was on display
during the Gala.
“People were fascinated by the Magdala Stone replica
which arrived literally at the last moment,” said Fr. Eamon
Kelly, LC, assistant director for the Magdala Center. “It was
delivered from Jerusalem to the Denver Museum of Nature and
Science the very morning of the Gala.
“The Bridge Builder’s award
was established to honor people who bring together those of
diverse backgrounds in a spirit of union.” said Fr. Eamon.
“The icon is made up of age-old worship symbols of
sharing and celebration between people. These symbols are laden with
“Up to now, the norm has been for each
faith community to provide for their own spaces,” said Fr.
Eamon. “The Magdala Center will open its doors to everyone.
Let’s build it together!”
Some of the dignitaries in attendance from
|A group of dignitaries at the Magdala Gala.|
Denver in the photo include (from left to right): Fr.
Eamon Kelly, LC; Rev. Peter Eaton, Dean of Saint John’s
Cathedral (Episcopalian); Dr. Jim Dixon, Senior Pastor of Cherry Hills Community
Church; Archbishop Charles Chaput; George Morrison, Senior Pastor of Faith
Bible Chapel; Rabbi Richard Rheins, President of the Rocky Mountain
Rabbinical Council; Dr. James Ryan, Executive Director of the Colorado
Council of Churches; Dr. Roger Teel, Senior Minister, Mile Hi
Church; Metropolitan Isaiah, Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Denver; Dr. Mary
Hulst, Immediate Past President of American Baptist Churches, USA; and
Dr. Gordon Kieft, President of the Colorado Council of Churches.
To find out more about Magdala Center, go to www.magdalacenter.com or www.notredamecenter.org.