The day marking the Catholic celebrations of the annual pilgrimage to the Baptism Site, the place of the baptism of Lord Jesus Christ, is scheduled to take place on Friday, January 12, 2024. The celebrations, to be held at the Catholic Church of the Baptism of Jesus Christ, will be presided at by His Beatitude Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, who was promoted to the rank of cardinal in late September 2023. The pilgrimage Holy Mass to the celebrated at the Baptism Site will be his first one in his capacity as cardinal in Jordan.
In this regard, Fr. Dr. Rif’at Bader, the official spokesman for the pilgrimage to the Baptism Site and director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media (CCSM) in Jordan, said that the baptism celebrations are an extension of the Christmas celebrations, and therefore they will be confined to religious rites, without being accompanied by scouts’ musical performances as had been the case in these blessed days. This year’s celebrations are characterized by solidarity with our suffering brethren in Gaza, and in mourning for the martyrs who fell over the past months. Consequently, the celebrations will be confined to prayers without ceremonial manifestations.
Regarding the specifics of these days, Fr. Bader said that the celebrations will be presided at by Patriarch Cardinal Pierbattista, in the presence of a number of Catholic bishops, including Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan Bishop Jamal D’aibes, Greek Catholic Bishop of Jordan Joseph Jbara, as well as Maronite, Syriac, Chaldean, and Armenian heads and representatives of the Catholic churches in Jordan, in addition to Apostolic Nuncio to Jordan Bishop Giovanni Pietro Dal Toso, and a large number of Catholic priests from various churches. The Holy oly HMass will be served by students of the Seminary of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem in Beit Jala, the Holy land.
Fr. Bader said that this year heralds the silver jubilee of pilgrimage to the Baptism Site in the modern era, as this important site was opened in 1999, coinciding with the Kingdom’s celebrations of the silver jubilee of His Majesty King Abdullah II’s ascension to the throne. This year also marks the 60th anniversary, namely the diamond jubilee of the pilgrimage undertaken by Pope Saint Paul VI in 1964, which was the first papal visit in history outside the border of Italy. The Pope’s plane touched down at the time at Marka International Airport and he was received by the late King Hussein Ibn Talal. He then headed to Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Nazareth, and stood by the waters of the Jordan River.
According to CCSM Director Fr. Bader, more than 5,000 pilgrims are expected to attend the Holy Mass this year. The Jordan Tourism Board will provide buses to transport the participants in the event, and will post huge screens inside and outside the church which will help those present to follow the Holy Mass with ease.
The CCSM director said that a large number of delegates from local, Arab and international press and media agencies is expected to cover the press conference to be held prior to the Holy Mass as is customary annually, including international Catholic newspapers, all of which operate in Jordan and cooperate with the CCSM which organizes this press conference annually. Patriarch of Jerusalem Cardinal Pizzaballa, and Minister of Tourism Mr. Makram Al-Qaisi will take part in this press conference.