JORDAN - On Saturday, January 9, the Catholic Churches in Jordan marked the national and Christian pilgrimage to the Baptism Site of Lord Jesus Christ, headed by Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem His Beatitude Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa.
Upon arrival at the Baptism Site, Nayef Al-Fayez, the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, welcomed Patriarch Pizzaballa and the accompanying Church delegation.
After that, the Catholic Center for Studies and Media (CCSM) organized a press conference during which Fr. Dr. Rif’at Bader, CCSM Director, welcomed to Jordan the new Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, currently making an official and pastoral visit. It is his first since his appointment by His Holiness Pope Francis last October as the 10th Patriarch of the Latin Church in the Holy Land, namely Jordan, Palestine, the Galilee, and Cyprus.
Fr. Bader said: This year marks the 21st anniversary of the start of the Christian pilgrimage, in the modern era, to the Baptism Site of Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, as it coincides with an exceptional atmosphere, the organizers chose to have the celebrations confined to a limited number of people. However, it is an occasion to pray for an end to the pandemic and its ramifications and that living conditions, good health, and well-being would improve. Also, to pray for religious tourism’s return, as existed before the pandemic’s emergence.
For his part, Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa expressed joy for heading this year’s celebration marking the 21st anniversary of the Christian pilgrimage to the Baptism Site. He said, “I come today, like other years, despite the change in my different title. I come as Latin Patriarch of the Holy City on a pilgrimage to this blessed land, the land of Jordan, and the land of Holy Baptism. Here Lord Jesus Christ stood, taught, and was baptized by John the Baptist. Subsequently, the site is a pilgrimage destination for thousands of believers, pilgrims, visitors, and tourists from different parts of the world.”
His Beatitude pointed out that “religious tourism in 2020 was not normal. It rather hit rock bottom, and the pandemic affected the tourism sector in all its aspects.” He hopes that this misery will come to an end soon and that “this year would be as a year of healing, a year of openness, a year of a new start, and a year of return to normal life, especially in Jerusalem, Palestine, and Jordan where tourism has a major role in bolstering the economy.” Consequently, we would see celebrations restored, and the Holy Places would welcome thousands of pilgrims as in the past years.
Then, the procession proceeded to the Baptism Church on the River Jordan bank to celebrate the Holy Mass. In attendance were the heads and representatives of the Catholic Churches in the Kingdom, Chargé d’Affaires of the Apostolic Nunciature in Amman Monsignor Mauro Lalli, several bishops and representatives of fraternal churches, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities Imad Hijazin, members of the diplomatic corps, a number of the members of the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament, priests, nuns, as well as representatives of ecclesiastical and tourist institutions.
There was no public attendance, as was the case every year, in compliance with health regulations, while the religious ceremony was live-streamed over social media networking sites.
During the Holy Mass, His Beatitude blessed the waters of the Jordan River. Patron of the celebration, the Patriarch delivered the homily in which he referred to the spiritual and humanitarian meanings of the baptism of Lord Jesus Christ, which marked the commencement of His public mission. He stressed that the pandemic ramifications, which included lockdowns and difficulties, should not lead the faithful to believe that their lives would remain affected by Covid-19. He also called all believers, in this context, “to live a full life in the likeness of Lord Jesus Christ, at all times, and by following what He did in every particular moment.”
Patriarch Pizzaballa added: “In these difficult times, we must consolidate prayer in the family, improve our family relations, and learn what the art of discipline necessitates at home. We also ask ourselves, each and everyone, according to his circumstances, what the Almighty Lord requires from us now. In other words, the requirement to grow in wisdom and grace before God and people.”
Patriarch Pizzaballa concluded his homily by praying for the sick and for those who work to preserve the health of citizens under the leadership of His Majesty King Abdullah II, and his son Prince Al Hussein Ben Abdullah II. He also implored the Almighty God to bless Jordan, with the blessing of its holy river, to keep the human family free from all evil and plagues, and to end this crisis from which the entire humanity grasped lessons.
Those in attendance said the following prayer: “Let us pray for our guardian, our leader His Majesty King Abdullah II, a man of wisdom and of honorable human stances, a king with whom God cherishes his homeland and people. May God bless his tireless efforts and good endeavors designed to consolidate a culture of peace based on respect and acceptance of others. May God perpetuate the blessing of security and safety, as this is a haven and relief for all those in need and looking for warmth and human dignity."
After the end of the Holy Mass, the secretary general of the Latin Vicariate Fr. Imad Alamat delivered an address in which he praised the official, ecclesiastical, touristic, and media efforts that joined forces to make the Christian pilgrimage successful. He extended thanks and appreciation to His Royal Highness Prince Ghazi Ben Mohammad, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Baptism Site, and the site administration for their assiduous efforts designed to care for the site and to develop it. He also thanked the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, the Jordan Tourism Board, the Arab Army, all security apparatuses, and the media for the joint efforts exerted to make the annual celebration a success.