In memory of Pope St. John Paul II’s visit to the Baptism Site, a historical memorial was erected 15 years ago. On the pilgrimage day at the Baptism Site which coincides on January 16, 2015, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal—accompanied by a number of bishops and Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Nidal Qatamin—visited the memorial next to the site where the Pope had prayed.
The memorial displays a picture of the Saint Pope praying in front of Mar Elias Hill. Under the mosaic picture the last words uttered by the Pope—during his historic visit on March 21, which marks its jubilee—are inscribed. In the inscription the Pope pledges to pray for Jordan, its King, its people and for the sick and the elderly in particular, something that Patriarch Twal recalled in his homily on the pilgrimage day this year.
The Pope said: “In my prayers I will remember the Christian and Muslim people of Jordan, especially the sick and elderly. May God bless the Kingdom, Their Majesties the King and the Queen, and all the people of the country.”
Director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media Fr. Rif’at Bader was the first to announce the “Memorial” erection in an interview with Jordanian daily Ad Dustour prior to the visit of Pope Francis to the Kingdom last year. He noted that Pope John Paul II was the first ever to pray at the Baptism Site after its reopening in the modern time where at that time, specifically in the year 2000, the great holy pilgrimage became a traditional date in the first month of each year.
The very site where the memorial was erected is reminiscent of Prophet Elijah when suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and he went up to heaven in a whirlwind as stated in the Bible. The site is also reminiscent of Fr. Michael Pichirilo who contributed to improving the Mount Nebo site in Madaba, as well as to the discovery of Baptism Site and listing it on the world map for religious pilgrimage to Jordan.