On Friday, January 11, the Catholic Church in Jordan will mark the national and Christian pilgrimage to the Baptism Site of Lord Jesus Christ, east of the Jordan River, for the 19th consecutive year with believers and pilgrims streaming to the holy site.
Director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media (CCSM) in Jordan Fr. Dr. Rif’at Bader has said in a statement that the Catholic Churches in Jordan will mark pilgrimage to the Baptism Site according to the followed tradition, namely on the second Friday of January of every year with the participation of thousands of believers from various Catholic churches in the Kingdom.
He pointed out that the religious ceremony will be presided by Most Rev. Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, at 10:00am with the participation of a number of bishops and representatives of the Catholic Churches in Jordan, in addition to a number of ambassadors of foreign countries including the Hungarian ambassador to Jordan whose country contributed last year to the final stages of the construction of the Catholic church.
He added that ceremony will be preceded by a press conference by the Jordan River, organized by the CCSM, during which Most Rev. Archbishop Pizzaballa will answer the questions of journalists with the participation of Secretary General of the Ministry of Tourism Dr. Issa Gammoh. Then, prayers will be held at the Catholic Church pleading for continued stability in the beloved Kingdom as well as for attainment of peace and security in the fraternal countries that are still suffering from the pains of war. A number of choir bands will sing hymns that indicate the importance of the sacrament of baptism, while scouting teams will cooperate with the security authorities to ensure the safety of the arriving and departing pilgrims.
Fr. Bader pointed out that the Baptism Site witnessed major events during the past two decades represented by three papal visits. He said that this year marks the 55th anniversary of the visit of St. Pope Paul VI, who was canonized last year, the 19th anniversary of the visit of St. John Paul II, the 10th anniversary of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI who laid the corner stone of the Catholic Church, and the 5th anniversary of the visit of His Holiness Pope Francis, who prayed with the sick and the forcibly displaced. He pointed out that these events constituted recognition by the Pontiffs of the importance of this sacred religious site. He also referred to the individual and collective visits carried out last year to the Baptism Site including those by Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Mar Bechara Boutros Rahi as well as by Monsignor Nicolas Brouwet, bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes in southwestern France–which is one of the most important religious touristic sites in the world–as he baptized a child at the Baptism Site.
The CCSM director touched on the spiritual and humanitarian message of the Baptism Site whereas the advent of Lord Jesus Christ to Jordan and His baptism by John showed His humility and His experiencing of the human nature. Therefore, the mission of the Baptism Site calls on all believers and pilgrims to demonstrate solidarity with the extended human family, as it urges them to assiduously and continually strive to treat the pains caused by selfishness, indifference, extremism and non-acceptance of the others.
In this context, Fr. Rif’at Bader lauded the shining example presented by His Majesty King Abdullah II to all members of the extended Jordanian family as well as the entire world with regards to harmony and brotherhood. He said: “The Templeton Prize for Interreligious Dialogue, which His Majesty the King was awarded, urges us to work hard to proclaim noble humanitarian values that constitute a prelude for a comprehensive solidarity among all members of the extended human family.”
He also highly valued the efforts exerted in order to develop the Baptism Site and disseminate its message with particular reference the board of trustees of the Baptism Site which is chaired by His Royal Highness Prince Ghazi Ben Mohammad, as well as the governmental efforts represented by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, the Jordan Tourism Board, and the security apparatuses that ensures the safety of visitors. He also lauded the efforts exerted by media outlets which transmit reports and photos of the annual pilgrimage worldwide.