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26 December 2011

Jaffa

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St Peter’s Church

The New Testament records several of the deeds of St Peter the Apostle which took place in Jaffa: the raising of Tabitha; his stay at the house of Simon the Tanner; the vision of the sheet let down from heaven. It was from here that he journeyed up the coast to Caesaria to tell about Jesus at the request of the Roman centurion, Cornelius, whose household became the first converts from paganism to be welcomed into the Church.

St. Peter’s Church
- Terra Santa
- P.O.B. 8467
- 61083 Jaffa
- ISRAEL

Telefono: +972. 3 682.28.71
- Fax: +972. 3 518.16.13

Visiting Hours of St Peter’s Church:

8.00-11.45
- 15.00-17.00

in Christian tradition

In ancient times the city of Jaffa owed its importance to its being a natural harbour, albeit a small one with dangerous rocks off-shore. The cedars of Lebanon used in the building of the Temple both at the time of Solomon (2Chr 2:15) and of Zerubbabel (Esd 3:7) were brought to shore here. It was from Jaffa that the prophet Jonah set sail for Tarshish (Jon 1:3) and was then thrown up again on the shore by the whale (Jon 2:11) at the spot known in local tradition as Tel Jonah. The Acts of the Apostles refers to a close-knit community here of Jewish believers in Jesus. They were comforted by the visit of St Peter the Apostle, who came and raised from the dead a lady by the name of Tabitha. Here in Jaffa, on the rooftop of Simon the Tanner, St Peter had the vision of the sheet let down from heaven containing all sorts of creatures, both pure and impure, after which he set out for Caesarea to receive into the Church the roman centurion, Cornelius, together with all his household, the first from among the pagans to convert to Christianity (Acts 10).

The church dedicated to St Peter commemorates these events. It was built by the Spanish between the years 1888 and 1894 on the place where the fortress of St Louis IX, King of France had stood at the time of the 6th Crusade (c. 1251). He it was who brought the Franciscan friars to the city, and his statue now stands inside the friary cloister. Beginning in 1650 the friars had a guesthouse in Jaffa to welcome the increasing number of pilgrims arriving through the port. In the church itself there are beautiful stained-glass windows, the work of F. X. Zettler of Munich, a remarkable wooden pulpit carved in the form of a fruiting tree and the painting above the high altar by the Catalan artist, Talarn, representing St Peter’s vision.

To reach the house of Simon the Tanner, a narrow way of steps leads down from the square next to the church. A monument to remember Tabitha is located a little outside the town. In 1933, another church was built dedicated to St Anthony of Padua to the south on Yefet Street serving as the parish church and with a school attached.

The site

- 1. St Peter’s Roman Catholic Church.
- 2. Greek Orthodox Church of St Michel.
- 3. House of Simon the Tanner.
- 4. Andromeda’s Rock.
- 5. Armenian Church.
- 6. Archaeological Museum.
- 7. Mosque.
- 8. Clocktower.
- 9. French Hospital.
- 10. Greek Orthodox Church of St George.
- 11. Melkite Church of St George.
- 12. St Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church.
- 13. Coptic Church.
- 14. Maronite Church.

Biblical text

The raising of Tabitha and the vision of St. Peter

Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord. As Peter travelled about the country, he went to visit the saints in Lydda. In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha, who was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!” Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them. Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning towards the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.

At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!” Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”

When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa. About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there. While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.” Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?” The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to have you come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went along.

(Acts of the Apostles 9:31 – 10:23)

Prayer

O God, through the Apostle Peter, taught by Your divine revelation, You willed to join the first Gentiles to Your Church. Through his intercession may we, who go forward with fidelity on the way of Your commandments, find grace at the throne of Your divine majesty. Amen

1. For the Church, that her pastors and all the faithful may feel the urgency of the missionary call of Jesus, and be led by the Holy Spirit into the new evangelisation: Let us pray to the Lord! Response: Lord, hear our prayer

2. For the entire human family, that in every people and nation the Holy Spirit may prepare the hearts of the men and women of our time for the obedience of faith in Christ: Let us pray to the Lord!

3. For those who do not know Christ but who seek God with a sincere heart, that they may soon be reached by the joyful news of peace through Jesus Christ, Who is Lord of all: Let us pray to the Lord!

4. For those whose lives are touched by the mystery of suffering, that they may experience the saving power of Jesus, Who passed by blessing and healing all who were under the power of the devil: Let us pray to the Lord!

5. For ourselves and our families, that our pilgrimage in the Holy Land may obtain for us the grace to rediscover our Christian vocation and to live it to the full: Let us pray to the Lord!

O Father, You sent Christ, the True Light, into the world. Through the intercession of the Apostle Peter, pour out the Holy Spirit to spread the seed of truth in the hearts of men and dispose them to the obedience of faith, so that all Your children, reborn in Baptism, may form the one people of the New Covenant. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.