Holy Land Monks Moving to Safer Quarters

Monastery Under Way at Site of Multiplication of Loaves and Fish

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ROME, JUNE 2, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The monks who serve as an ongoing memorial of Jesus' miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fish are moving into safer quarters.

With the support of the international charity Aid to the Church in Need, the German Benedictine community that lives at the site held to be the place of the miracle are readying for their new living and praying space.

Benedictine Father Jeremiah Marseille spoke to Aid to the Church in Need about progress on the construction.

He first explained that the former house was unsafe, as it was built in the 1950s with inadequate foundations. "The house is moving, as we live in an area of earthquakes at the beginning of the Jordan valley," he said.

"The second reason [for moving] is more important," the priest continued. "We not only need a house, we need a cloister where the monastic life can increase and grow."

"The opening words of Jesus in the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish are: 'Come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while, for there were so many coming and going,'" Father Marseille observed.

Aid to the Church in Need is supporting the construction with more than €50,000 ($72,400) to erect the oratory, which the Benedictine monk described as "the heart of the new monastery."

"Monks and guests need a room where, both day and night, they can find a quiet place to pray, which is set apart from the crowds in the surroundings," Father Marseille said.

The oratory will have air conditioning; temperatures in the region can reach 50 degrees Centigrade (122 degrees Fahrenheit) in the hottest summer days.

And the new building will be able to cope with the periodic earthquakes that affect the valley.

"The construction is going well; we have almost finished the cells. Then we will start the west wing of the new monastery, including the new oratory," said Father Marseille. "We hope and plan to finish the skeleton construction work of the whole monastery in October, and we hope to move in at the end of May next year."

The new building is a community project of the German Association of the Holy Land and of the Benedictine monks.

The Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fish that the Benedictines look after was built in 1982 by the German Association of the Holy Land on the site of a Byzantine church destroyed in 614 by the Persians.

The current structure incorporates the remains of the mosaic floor of the fifth-century church.

The oldest written record of the site dates from the end of the fourth century, which describes a small Syrian Church, built over a holy stone, which became an altar commemorating the miraculous multiplication.