JORDAN – On Friday, January 11, 2019, the Catholic Churches in Jordan celebrated 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 which was opened in 2000.
Most Rev. Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, thanked His Majesty King Abdullah II Ben Al Hussein who made the land grant for the construction of the churches at the Baptism Site. He pointed out that building of churches on the land of Jordan provides cogent evidence of the security and stability enjoyed by the beloved Kingdom, as well as the preservation of rights to all components of society.
Most Rev. Archbishop Pizzaballa added in the press conference held by the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Jordan and administered by Fr. Dr. Rif’at Bader: “We also thank all those who work assiduously to develop the Baptism Site led by His Royal Highness Prince Ghazi Ben Mohammad, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Baptism Site. He hoped that the Baptism Site would undergo further progress and development.
Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa stressed that the pilgrimage undertaken annually by the Catholic Churches attests to the fact that Jordan is holy land. He stressed the importance to maintain concerted efforts and cooperation among the various institutions to develop the religious sites that abound in the Kingdom, including the Baptism Site, Mount Nebo and Mukawir Castle in Madaba, as well as Mar Elias in Ajloun. The Apostolic Administrator invited all friends, especially Churches around the world, to visit Jordan, the Holy Land, referring to the fact that last year marked a remarkable development in religious tourism.
He said: “Jordan is a living and unique example of the entire region in common living, security, and stability.” He also referred to the praise expressed by His Holiness Pope Francis who paid tribute–during his visit to the Baptism Site in 2014 and meeting with delegations of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See–to Jordan that serves as a role model regarding hospitality to the refugees and the forcibly displaced.” The Apostolic Administrator concluded the press conference by thanking, on behalf of the Latin Patriarchate, all those who contributed to the construction of the Baptism Church on the Jordan River including His Excellency Mr. Nadim Mu’asher and the Hungarian Kingdom, which made the contribution last year to complete the construction.
For his part, the Secretary General of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities Issa Gammoh expressed pride that the pilgrimage to the Baptism Site became an annual tradition for all Churches. He lauded the efforts exerted at various levels each year that facilitated pilgrimage to the Baptism Site and enabled pilgrims to visit the blessed water where Lord Jesus Christ was baptized by St. John the Baptist. He added that the number of tourists and pilgrims to the site, that has been added to the world heritage sites, increased by 50 per cent last year to reach 144,000 people as this provides cogent evidence that Jordan is stable at the political, security and social levels.
Later, the pilgrimage procession moved to the Baptism Church. The Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Pizzaballa and concelebrated by Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan Bishop William Shomali, Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, Archbishop of the Melkite Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Petra and Philadelphia in Amman Joseph Jbara, Apostolic Nuncio to Jordan Archbishop Alberto Ortega Martín, First Counselor for the Apostolic Nunciature in Amman Monsignor Mauro Lalli, and representatives of Catholic Churches. Present at the Mass were over 6,000 people from various governorates in Jordan as well as a number of Arab and foreign ambassadors.
Later, the Apostolic Administrator sprinkled the believers with holy water. At the end of the ceremony, Bishop Shomali praised the government’s efforts that maintain security as well as the cooperation prevailing among the Church committees in charge of organizing the celebration such as the Latin Vicariate scouts, the General Secretariat of Youth, the choir band, the Liturgical Committee, and Caritas Jordan. Fr. Ibrahim Shomali, chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, thanked all those who contributed to the success of the 19th national and Christian pilgrimage to the Baptism Site of Lord Jesus Christ on the Jordan River and conveyed well wishes to the extended Jordanian family led by His Majesty King Abdullah Ben Al Hussein.
After the Mass, Fr. Dr. Bader and Fr. Simon Hijazin baptized Iraqi girl, Anita Laith Lewis, and a child from the Philippines. The parents of the Iraqi girls arrived in Jordan after being forcibly displaced and she was born in Jordan five months ago. Fr. Bader said, “We in Jordan have maintained several terms obsolete such as minorities and communities since all who enter the Jordanian territories become our brothers and sisters in humanity. We appreciate Jordan’s efforts to welcome everyone whose dignity has been scathed and commend the efforts exerted by the churches for welcoming our brethren who come from anywhere and provide them with the appropriate spiritual services, especially in holy sites, most importantly at the Baptism Site.
Source: Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.