statua di Pietro e Gesù a Tabgha.

The primacy of love

Emma Garroni29 May 2024

The bright blue of Lake Tiberias lazily laps the rocks on which the church of the Primacy of St. Peter stands; All around are patches of dark green leaves, dotted with small pink flowers. The place is immersed in a quiet silence.

The Church of the Primacy of Peter on the shores of Lake Tiberias.
The Church of the Primacy of Peter on the shores of Lake Tiberias.

Near the church stands a statue, dark against the wall of light in the sky. It is a composition of two figures: a kneeling man extends his open hand to another man, standing, to whom he turns an imploring gaze. The standing figure looks straight ahead, and with one arm outstretched forward, he brings his hand, suspended, over the head of the kneeling man, in a gesture of blessing.

The statue of St. Peter and Jesus in Tabgha.
The statue of St. Peter and Jesus.

The two men are Jesus and St. Peter, the latter portrayed in the act of receiving his endowment. We are in fact in Tabgha, in the place where Peter received the role of guide of the apostles – the primacy, in fact – following his triple betrayal.

A leap of faith

The story of Jesus’ forgiveness and the investiture of St. Peter as pastor and head of the Church is a story of acceptance and trust: the disciple who denies and distances himself from the one to whom he swore eternal fidelity – several times, therefore intentionally – receives a second chance. What is more, he is entrusted with the greatest possible responsibility , a sign of the deep trust that Jesus places in him.

This story instilled a lot of courage in the Early Christians, explaining to them that even if they betrayed their new faith at a difficult time, they would always be welcomed by God; It’s also a story about theman, of all men, of our Fear of making mistakes and how nothing, in reality – not even what may seem to us the worst of errors – is a condemnation without solution.

It is John who tells us how Peter, watching Jesus perform the miracle and fill their empty nets with fish, “threw himself into the sea” to join his Lord, contrite in his repentance. It is here that primacy is affirmed: three times, as there had been three times when Peter betrayed his God, Jesus asks the disciple if he loves him “more than others”; three times Peter replies yes. Peter is the first to recognize and claim his own “primacy”, as the one who loves Jesus more than the other disciples: the investiture of pastor and head of the Church confirms a truth that he had already felt in his heart.

Mosaic reminiscent of the miracle of fish.
Mosaic reminiscent of the miracle of fish.

A love that needs to grow

In 2020, the Custos of the Holy Land, Francesco Patton, during the celebration of the anniversary – which takes place every year in front of an altar in the shape of a boat, to commemorate the appearance of Jesus in front of the disciples who hold empty fishing nets in their hands – defined Peter’s as the «the primacy of love“:

“The primacy of love is not the primacy of presumptuous love, but of humble love that has passed through the experience of one’s own fragility. In fact, the love of which we human beings are capable is a love that needs to grow.”

The history of primacy is a beautiful legitimization of the fragility and error that constitute the most human and profound part of man: an error without judgment, to which another possibility is always granted. “We understand very well that behind this threefold demand,” Patton continues, “there is also the second chance that Jesus offers Peter after the threefold denial; And so through this threefold profession of love it is as if in some way the threefold denial is also overcome .”

The primacy of love leaves no room for resentment, but is infused with pure human compassion .

In the footsteps of Jesus

In addition to having deep historical and religious significance, Tabgha and Capernaum are two beautiful places to visit. Many of the Holy Places share this twofold aspect: they are lands of faith and beauty, which fill the eyes of those who walk through them.

For this reason, Pro Terra Sancta, which has been close to the sensitivity of places and their preservation since the beginning of its activity, is committed to organizing itineraries and trips to discover the places of the Holy Land, their history and the people who live there. The co-presence of All these dimensions – geographical, natural, artistic, historical, culinary, cultural, human – and the presence of Expert guides in the history and life of the places of the Middle East allows the traveler to melt with the places he sees, to find in them a little of himself, and then to carry within himself something of what he has seen and experienced.

Our itinerary In the Footsteps of Jesus includes Tabgha, the church, the waters of the Sea of Galilee, as well as all the other places where Jesus lived and loved. If you are curious to see these realities first-hand, visit the dedicated section of our website and discover all the possible ways to visit the Holy Land with us!