|On the Magdala property, archaeologists uncovered the oldest sculpted depiction on stone of a seven-branched menorah.|
Denver, Colo. -- On September 11, 2009, news outlets announced
an archeological find that has been touted as a vehicle
to support ecumenism and dialogue between different religions and cultures.
CNN reported the discovery of a first century synagogue
considered to be the oldest in northern Israel. This discovery
was made on the construction site of the new Magdala
Great Ecumenical, Interreligious Significance
A Zenit article quoted Father Juan
María Solana, LC, director of the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame
of Jerusalem Center and initiator of the Magdala project.
knew that Magdala was a holy place and I always
had a hunch that it would be a special place
for pilgrims of various religions,” he said. “But the finding
that we have made certainly exceeds our expectations….I dream of
the day that this place will be opened to visiting
pilgrims, and I hope it will serve to create bridges
and bonds of true love and dialogue between believers of
different religions that come together in the Holy Land."
of Christ, who oversee the Jerusalem center, and other various
groups interested in the project, have organized a major fundraising
event on June 8, 2011, at the Denver Museum of
Natural Science, 2011 Colorado Boulevard, Denver, Colorado, to help continue
the development of this historically and culturally significant project. The
event will include the participation of: Archbishop of Denver Charles
Chaput; Metropolitan Isaiah, Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Denver; President of
the Rocky Mountain Rabbinical Council Rabbi Richard Rheins, and other
religious and government leaders.
|The Denver Museum of Nature and Science, where the gala event will be held.|
“Denver’s religious leaders were most welcoming
of this effort,” said Fr. Eamon Kelly, LC, Vice Charge
of the Notre Dame Center. “Various groups and individuals from
Denver came to visit Israel and the Holy Land in
2009 and 2010 and were very interested in supporting this
project. The continual flow of Denver pilgrims in 2011 confirms
“So let your Denver friends know about this historic event
on June 8, and even come with them!”
Fr. Kelly, who has been traveling around the world to
publicize the discovery of the synagogue and development of the
Magdala project, said the synagogue site is likely a location
where Jesus actually preached. Because of its significance to Christians,
as well as Jews and other religions, the site is
expected to draw countless pilgrims after its planned opening in
The synagogue is located in the former town of
Magdala on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Ceramic
and coin evidence shows the synagogue had not been used
since the year 67 AD, when historical records show Magdala
was destroyed by the Romans. A large limestone rock was
discovered, including a carving of a seven branched menorah, thought
to be the oldest sculpted depiction on stone of the
ancient Jewish symbol.
According to Father Kelly, the Magdala Project brings
alive a centuries-long dormant biblical place of immense historical importance.
“We are all stakeholders,” he said. “This project is significant
for all of us.
“From the beginning we planned an ecumenical
|A view of the first-century synagogue with the Magdala Stone in the center.|
chapel for all varieties of Christian Faith communities,” he explained.
“The Magdala Project was born with a very open spirit.
It was exactly in the same space planned for that
chapel that we discovered the synagogue. So there we can
all discover our commonality, since we started out without all
the heritage of division we now endure. Even more, back
then, we were not separated from the Jewish community.”
Center Offers Many Benefits
The Magdala Center, aside from preserving
and exhibiting the ruins of this holy place, will offer
a hotel for pilgrims to the Holy Land, and a
multimedia center that will display the message and life of
Jesus and the history of the land. The Magdala Project
will also be a center that will promote the vocation
and dignity of women, inspired by the figure of Mary
Father Kelly claims the Magdala Project is important to many
sectors for economic reasons, as well as a stabilizing contribution
toward peace. He said the project will bring employment for
local workers, increase tourism to Israel and offer more quality
accommodations to pilgrims.
More Information and Resources
For more information or
to register to attend the Galilee Gala, go to the
following link or download the promotional flyer here. You can
also download the official invitation and the reply
The Denver Post (www.denverpost.com) recently posted an article by
Electa Draper about the event, entitled "Religious, political luminaries gather
to raise money for Magdala Center in Israel" at this link.
To find out more about Magdala Center, go to
www.magdalacenter.com or www.notredamecenter.org.