On Monday, January 24, French directors of Christian Pilgrimage concluded their tour of touristic Christian sites in Jordan which took place at the invitation of the Jordan Tourism Board.
The delegation, which included dozens of pilgrimage agencies managers, was led by Bishop Jean-Marie le Vert, the spiritual director of the Association of the National and Duo-seasonal for Pilgrimage (ANDP) that is affiliated with the Conference of Bishops in France, and accompanied by Secretary General of ANDP Bishop Jack-Marie le Mur. The delegation visited archaeological sites and held meetings with officials in charge of various sectors in the Kingdom.
During the visit, the French delegation was accompanied by Director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Jordan and member of the National Council of Tourism Fr. Dr. Rif’at Bader, Director of the Pilgrimage Department at the Jordan Tourism Board Amer Twal, and Tourism Attaché at the Jordanian Embassy in Paris Ms. Samia Anastas.
The delegation members visited the archaeological city of Jerash, the Mar Elias site, and the site of Our Lady of the Mount in Anjara. They attended Holy Mass in the presence of parish priest Fr. Yousef Francis, visited Mount Nebo, St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church, as well as St. George’s Church during which they met with parish priest Fr. Faris Nasrawin who briefed them on the history of the city.
The delegation members met with several heads of churches in Jordan. They met with Latin Patriarchal Vicar in Amman Fr. Jamal Khader who introduced them to the history of the Latin Church in Jordan and presented directives that encourage tourists and pilgrims from all over the world to visit Jordan in its capacity as a holy land, including the Baptism Site, Mount Nebo, and the other holy places in the Kingdom. He stressed the importance of meeting with priests and the men and women of local churches to learn about the Jordanian experience of common living and brotherhood. Bishop Joseph Jbarah talked about the Melkite Greek Catholic Archeparchy, Fr. Joseph Swede spoke about the Maronite Church, while Fr. Bashir Bader talked about the Family Pastoral Center.
The delegation members celebrated a Holy Mass at the Baptism Site and Fr. Dr. Rif’at Bader gave a briefing on the Church of the Baptism of Christ. They toured the historical sites at this unique place and expressed their admiration of this place which allows the pilgrims to spend time in prayer and meditation. They also visited Fuheis where they attended a Holy Mass celebrated in the presence of Fr. Imad Twal. They also visited Petra and Aqaba, where they attended a Holy Mass in the presence of Fr. Francis Shahin and Father Ibrahim Hijazin, priest of the Greek Catholic parish. They also visited the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in Na’our, and attended a Holy Mass which was concelebrated by Fr. Bashir Bader.
The delegation members also attended a seminar in Amman in the presence of representatives of various touristic sectors, during which discussion focused on developing the French religious tourism to Jordan.
During a meeting with Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Nayef Al Fayez, which was attended by Director of the Jordan Tourism Board, he expressed to the visiting French delegation members his appreciation for choosing Jordan as a main touristic destination for the future tourism. He said that tourists visit historical archaeological sites, while the pilgrims visit the holy places and pray in Jordan in the various ancient churches, as well as in the living churches that are teeming with believers in the cities and villages of Jordan as a whole. Fayez reviewed the papal visits to Jordan starting with the visit Pope Paul VI in 1964, Pope John Paul II in 2000, Pope Benedict XVI in 2009, and Pope Francis in 2014 which shed light on the Christian religious sites in the Kingdom and encourage Christians all over the world, particularly the Catholics, to come to Jordan and visit its holy places. He added that the pilgrimage directors are ambassadors of the Kingdom in France and Europe as through them French and European tourists may be encouraged to visit Jordan, the land of prophets, saints and martyrs. Fayez also lauded the real cooperation between the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities on the one hand and the clergymen. He pointed out that the ministry strives to launch plans that suit all ages starting with the Christian pilgrimage through a preliminary part that “starts from Mount Nebo and ends at the Baptism Site.”
Bishop Jean-Marie le Vert pointed out that views will soon be considered to initiate eight-day pilgrimage trips to Jordan under the supervision of bishops from various French dioceses since Jordan abounds with archaeological and religious sites mentioned in the Holy Bible.
ANDP Secretary General Bishop Jack-Marie le Mur said that the ANDP seriously considers holding its general assembly meeting outside France, namely Jordan, in the autumn of 2023. He also thanked Jordan for the hospitably, reception, organization and care extended during the visit. He said that they pray for the success of their conference due to be held in Jordan with the help of the Jordanian embassy and the Jordan Tourism Board.
On the last day of the visit, the delegation attended Holy Mass which was celebrated by Bishop Jean-Marie le Vert at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Tla’ Al-Ali where parish priest Fr. Dr. Rif’at Bader welcomed them and said that the Church in Jordan plays a key role in promoting and marketing religious tourism.
Munir Bayouk/ en.abouna.org