Director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Jordan Fr. Dr. Rif’at Bader and Christian pilgrimage official of the Jordan Tourism Board Mr. Amer Twal have participated in the sessions of the general assembly of the National Coordination for Italian Pilgrimages which gathers directors of several dioceses in Italy.
The two-day meetings which took place in the Rome, near the Holy See, were chaired by Bishop Luigi Bessin, the spiritual guide of the gathering, with the administration of Secretary General Fr. Luciano Mainini.
The sessions included more than two hours of discussions regarding the importance of visiting Jordan in the modern time. Mr. Amer Twal gave a pictorial presentation on the importance of visiting Jordan. He said that we need to see all shades of the Italian society in Jordan including the elderly and students as Jordan contains ancient and historical sites, in addition to attractive Jordanian nature. He added that Jordan, under the leadership of His Majesty King Abdullah II, attaches nowadays special importance to religious tourism, since Jordan is a holy land that contains ancient Christian relics, as well as later Islamic ones, which serves as a source of attraction for followers of different religions. Mr. Twal stressed, on behalf of the Jordan Tourism Board, the importance of increasing the duration of the stay of the tourists and pilgrims in our country. He addressed the directors saying, “Do not forget that Jordan is the land of holiness.”
For his turn, Fr. Bader spoke about the importance of visiting Jordan at the present time. He said that Jordan is a stable and safe country. Admitting that there have been turbulences in the Middle East in the past years, but thank God tourism has recovered due to the existence of relative political security. He went on to say that security in Jordan is attributed to the Hashemite leadership of His Majesty King Abdullah II Ben Al-Hussein who always adopted peaceful options to Jordan and led the ship to the shores of safety.
Fr. Bader continued that visitors who come to Jordan are not mere tourists but also pilgrims since Jordan contains many sites that testify to its ancient Christian history. Consequently, he said, the visitors who come to Jordan are not mere tourists but pilgrims who come to enjoy praying at the holy sites sanctified by Lord Jesus Christ and the prophets such as Prophet Elijah, Prophet Moses, John the Baptist, the Apostles, and the martyrs.
Fr. Bader, who is a member of the National Tourism Council, added that a visit to Jordan does not include only visiting ancient and historical places, but rather serves as an opportunity to meet the Christian Churches, their pastors, and the faithful who witness in their faith at the modern times the sublime plurality that exists alongside their Muslim brethren.
Fr. Bader pointed out that visiting Jordan serves as an opportunity to meet with Jordanian people and extend bridges of friendship with them, as well as an occasion to meet with the forcibly displaced who have been welcomed to Jordan, knowing that they constitute a substantial percentage of the population. The forcibly displaced, he said, admit Jordan’s hospitality to the point that several media circles worldwide have called our country “the country of welcoming the forcibly displaced” par excellence.
A lengthy discussion took place during the annual gathering that has been taking place in Italy since 1978, as this is the first time that a Jordanian delegation was invited. During the discussion, Fr. Bader noted that Jordan was visited by four Popes, and this year we mark the 20th anniversary of the visit of Saint Pope John Paul II as well as the beginning of the pilgrimage to the Baptism Site which must attract all our friends, brethren and sisters in humanity and in faith to come to Jordan and witness the land of holiness and openness.
The Jordanian delegation members took part in His Holiness Pope Francis’ weekly audience on Wednesday, January 29, and presented a gift to the Pope, namely a mosaic decorated with a tree of life which is from the symbols found in the first centuries in Jordan. They also met Jordanian ambassador in Rome Mr. Fayez Khoury who said that preparations are under way for the Jordan Festival, which will take place in Rome and other Italian cities in June and July 2020. He added that this will include a touristic, cultural and religious promotion of Jordan, under its wise Hashemite leadership, and the awareness of its people, their cohesion and national unity.