From France’s “Lourdes” to Jordan’s “Lourdes”

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From France’s “Lourdes” to Jordan’s “Lourdes”

By Fr. Dr. Rif’at Bader

I had the honor in 2015 to write an article titled, "A new pilgrimage shrine inaugurated in Jordan, ''Our Lady of Lourdes’," which was intended to Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto in Naour. Three years later, Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes in southwestern France Monsignor Nicolas Brouwet paid a week-long visit to the Kingdom at the invitation of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and on the heels of relevant indefatigable efforts by the Jordan Tourism Promotion Board.

The grand guest was impressed by the Jordanians’ worldwide-renowned hospitality which characterizes this people. The guest arrived at Amman Airport coming from Paris while knowing that he had left a secular country par excellence, and without being aware that a religious figure receives warm welcome and care by the various official departments, that is why his visit to Jordan provided him with reverence lacking in his country.

The schedule of the visit was balanced as he visited the Prime Ministry and met with Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Raja’i Mu’asher and the French Ambassador to Jordan. The guest was greatly impressed by a visit to the Iftaa' Department where he met with Grand Mufti Dr. Mohammad Khalaileh and discussions focused on relations between Muslims and Christians in our countries and the Western countries.

There is a considerable difference between the two regions. A Muslim going to the West is an immigrant and a guest who is required to exert huge efforts, alongside his family, to fully get integrated into the laws of the country, while in our Arab country there is religious pluralism which is part of the major components of the society. The Christians are not transient. They did not come to drink a cup of coffee then leave, for they are indigenous people who need not exert any effort for integration. The guest visited Naour three times namely to meet with the governor and the mayor as well as to preside at a Mass with members of the various Christian congregations in Jordan. He was tumultuously welcomed particularly with the participation of scouting teams that played differed types of music. The second time was a warm encounter with youth groups coming from different parts of Jordan. The third time was when he celebrated a major Mass attended by officials from the Church and the local community. During this Mass, the bishop announced the "twinning" between the Lady of Lourdes in France and its counterpart in Jordan, based in Na’our. This twinship will be positively reflected through the resuscitation of religious tourism in our country. The French city of Lourdes is visited annually by millions of pilgrims, and we can benefit from this successful experience in order to develop and intensify efforts in the direction to better market our touristic product. In addition to this, it is worthy to mention the baptism of the child Omar Mu’asher, which was performed by the bishop, at the Baptism Site with the Jordan River water.

The guest was accompanied by journalists who represent major Catholic newspapers, periodicals and television networks. The guests started publishing their articles about Jordan and what they experienced which prompts their readers to visit Jordan and learn about the Jordanian deep-rooted social integration.

Abouna.org@gmail.com

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