The 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the State of Israel and the Holy See is a time for joy as well as acknowledgement of the long way we have travelled together along a path of reconciliation and friendship.
On Dec 30th 1993, Israel and the Holy See signed in Jerusalem the fundamental agreement establishing full diplomatic relations between our two states. This unique bonding between the only Jewish State and the universal Catholic Church combines both political and spiritual elements.
The special Joint Stamp issued by the Israel Philatelic Service and the Holy See Numismatic Service to commemorate the 25th anniversary depicts St. Peter’s Church and the synagogue at Capernaum and symbolizes the unique relations and interactions between Judaism and Christianity.
As we mark the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations, we acknowledge with deep satisfaction all that we have achieved. We especially recall the three official visits to the State of Israel of all three popes who have served since the establishment of our relations. The visits included impressive moments at the Western Wall, Yad Vashem and laying a wreath by Pope Francis at the tomb of Benjamin Zeev Herzl, the founder of Zionism. Reciprocal visits to the Vatican were paid by all Israeli heads of state and Prime Ministers.
Our achievements should be a starting point to encourage continued joint work to bring these relations to even further heights of friendship, dialogue and mutual understanding.
Ambassador of Israel to the Holy See
Capernaum is an archeological site on the Sea of Galilee shore, north of Tiberias. A town from the Roman Byzantine period which was mentioned in a book by the ancient Jewish historian Josephus (Yosef ben Matityahu) was excavated at the site. Capernaum’s historical and religious significance stems from what is written about it in the New Testament, and the fact that this was where Jesus lived during his time in the Galilee. One of the most magnificent ancient synagogues in Eretz Israel was discovered in the center of the town, alongside the remnants of an octagonal church from the Byzantine period.
The Gospel of Mark features a description of how Jesus began his religious mission after being baptized in the Jordan River. He went northward to the Galilee, where he located his first students, fishermen in the Sea of Galilee. Together with these students, he made his way to the nearby town of Capernaum, where some of them lived. “They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach” (Mark 1:21). This was the first time Jesus had appeared before the Jewish public in the Galilee. He was revealed to be an authoritative Halachic teacher and also miraculously healed a man who was overtaken by a demon.
At the end of the prayers, Jesus and his students “left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon and Andrew” (Mark 1:29), where Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law of her fever. “That evening after sunset… The whole town gathered at the door and Jesus healed many who had various diseases” (Mark 1:32-34). During the Byzantine period a grand church was built to mark the place where Simon the student’s house was traditionally thought to have been. In 1990, a modern church was constructed on the ruins of the Byzantine church, which was discovered in the early 20th century, hovering over the ancient remains.
The church and the synagogue, which are currently overseen by the Franciscan order, attract tourists and Christian pilgrims from all around the world.
Description of the Souvenir Leaf and FDC
Aerial photo of Capernaum courtesy of Wikimedia, photo: Abraham Graicer