Fr. Michele Piccirillo, on his 10th anniversary

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Fr. Michael Piccolo accompanies St. Pope John Paul II during a visit to Mount Nebo in 2000

Fr. Michele Piccirillo, on his 10th anniversary

By Fr. Rif’at Bader

The year 2018 marks the 10th anniversary of the passing away of one of the most important researchers who loved Jordan’s land, water and humans. It is a rare issue to find someone who says he wants to be buried after death in a country other than his native country. Fr. Michele Piccirillo had quite a different view. This Franciscan priest chose to be buried at Mount Nebo, the place he loved most and where he spent several years as a researcher, scrutinizing through the ruins of the past to give inspirations to the humanity of today.

This Italian priest was born in Casanova in the province of Caserta in 1944. He was fascinated by the Holy Land which was one of his aspirations since childhood. He came to Bethlehem when he was 16 years old, pursued his studied in Jerusalem, and was ordained priest in 1969. Then, he left for Rome to study archaeology. He returned to Jerusalem in 1974 to begin his academic career at the Franciscan College. He was renowned as an archaeologist with his colleague Fr. Bellarmino Bagati. He came to Mount Nebo in 1976 and located the site of Prophet Moses, discovered the baptism stock and pieces of invaluable mosaic dating back to the 6th century.

In 1987, he worked in Umm ar-Rasas, which is referred to in the Holy Bible as "Kastron Mefa'a". He also shed light on the mutual living between the city's Muslims and Christians, with the city becoming a unique touristic destination in our beloved country. UNESCO added this city to the World Heritage List in 2004.

From 1987 to 2000, Piccirillo worked as a teacher at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. He was among the first people to rediscover Bethany and the Baptism Site, accompanied by His Royal Highness Prince Ghazi Ben Mohammad, especially in the Great Jubilee in 2000, during which the St. Pope John Paul II visited the Holy Land at a time when Fr. Michele Piccirillo was his guide. He wrote many books on mosaics and archaeological sites in Nebo, northern Jordan, Umm al-Rasas and several places in Palestine. He became sick in 2008 and passed away in October in Italy. He was given a solemn prayer ceremony in Amman when he was transferred to Mount Nebo, to be buried in the place he loved most.

Love, gratefulness, gratitude and appreciation are conveyed to Fr. Michele Piccirillo on the 10th anniversary of his passing away. With thoughts in mind how to reward him, the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Jordan has dedicated in its annual Calendar a month to address his honorable deeds. At a seminar held recently by the Italian Embassy, in cooperation with the Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Foundation, titled, "Italy, Culture and the Mediterranean", Italian mosaic expert Franco Sciorelli talked about some initiatives to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the passing away of Fr. Michele Piccirillo. It is hoped that the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquity, the Ministry of Culture and the concerned authorizes will undertake similar initiatives since throughout the history of Jordan there has not been a person who was so infatuated by Jordan as Fr. Michele Piccirillo was. We ought to convey to him due tribute and appreciation by naming a library, a school, or an archaeology university college after him. But we have to work as one team to achieve these goals.

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