Antakya (Agenzia Fides) - The cave church of St. Peter in Antioch is still closed and restoration work is not yet complete. But the prefecture authority has granted permission, however, to the Christians of Antioch, Iskenderun, Mersin and Adana to visit the cave church on June 29 to celebrate with a moment of prayer, the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. This was confirmed to Fides Agency by the Capuchin Franciscan Fr. Domenico Bertogli, pastor of the local Catholic Church of the Latin rite, editor of the news magazine entitled "Chronicle of Antioch". "There is still much work to do" says Fr. Bertogli to Fides, "and the official opening is announced for July 25. On the same occasion the new Archaeological Museum, built not far from the church of St. Peter will also open".
The restoration of the cave church, funded by public institutions in Turkey, started in September 2012 and were supposed to last about a year. The most challenging part of the work involved the safety of the church and the entire area. Mount Silpius, on whose side opens what is also known as the Grotto of St. Peter with a stone facade. The mosaics inside, properly restored, were covered with sheets of glass and accented with lighting pavement.
Since 1967, thanks to Pope Paul VI, you can gain plenary indulgence by making a pilgrimage to the holy cave, the only historical record of ancient Christian Antioch, the "Queen of the East that competed with Rome", Alexandria, Jerusalem and Constantinople at the time of Pentarchy. The cave church still retains the character that the Crusaders gave, who conquered Antioch in 1098. But the Byzantines had already turned into the chapel the place where they met the first Christians in times of persecution, in the city where for the first time the disciples of Jesus were called Christians and where St. Peter was bishop before coming to Rome.
The restoration puts an end to the state of abandonment besetting the Grotto of Peter, made even more daunting by previous restorations. In past years, Patriarchs and Bishops were always present in the celebrations that were held on the occasion of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 24/06/2014)