After observing a minute of silence and prayer in mourning for the martyrs, especially in Gaza, the celebrations of the Catholic Christian pilgrimage at the Baptism Site set off in the presence of His Beatitude Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem--who visited this site for the first time since his elevation as a cardinal by His Holiness Pope Francis in late September 2023--and the various heads of the Catholic churches in Jordan, as well as the Apostolic Nuncio to Jordan. But this year was devoid of the mellifluous music played by the scouts that we are accustomed to annually. This is due to the fact that the Baptism Site celebrations are an extension of Christmas celebrations as all of which were confined to religious rites in solidarity with what is happening to our brethren in Gaza and entire Palestine.
This year, the Catholic Churches, alongside the Churches of the East, have marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), and it is a good occasion to take note of since the MECC is the unitary forum—referred to as ecumenical--which incorporates all the Churches of the East in the four ecclesiastical families, namely the Catholic family, the Orthodox family, the Eastern Orthodox family, and the Evangelical family. It was founded in 1974, to be an encompassment and a representative of all Christians of the East. The reference to the Feast of Baptism at the Baptism Site reminds all Christians of the world, especially in our dear East, that baptism unites Christians spiritually and emotionally before talking about doctrinal and administrative unity.
For this reason, incense smoke billowed, hymns and prayers were lifted up, first for the extended Jordanian family to maintain national unity, to be in harmony, and to serve as a sign of security and stability under the leadership of His Majesty King Abdullah II Ibn Al-Hussein with whom we will shortly celebrate his silver jubilee, namely the 25th anniversary of his ascension to the throne of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan as well as for Crown Prince His Royal Highness Prince Al-Hussein Ibn Abdullah II, and His Royal Highness Prince Ghazi Ibn Muhammad, chairman of the board of trustees of the Baptism Site.
A special prayer was lifted up for the purpose of peace. And here I refer to the prayer that Ms. Carol Hayel Alamat recited during the Holy Mass, in which she expresses all our wishes at the outset of this new year, that marks the jubilee of His Majesty the King, and the 30th anniversary of the it establishment of good relations between Jordan and the Holy See. We are also getting ready to mark the next year the 25th anniversary of the pilgrimage to the Baptism Site which started in 2000.
The Carol Alamat prayer says, “From the lowest place on Earth and the closest to Heaven, we lift up our supplications on this blessed morning to the Almighty Lord to grant the Holy Land the desired just peace, as well as to inspire leaders, rulers, and lovers of goodness to strive to build peace and to return it to its cradle. From the Land of the Baptist... from the Holy Jordan River... from here... from the Baptism Site of Lord Jesus Christ... hymns of peace resound, and hearts pray with those of good will and sincere conscience, so that the sun of justice would shine, acts of killing, destruction and displacement would cease, and peace may come to Earth which God had chosen to be a land of peace and redemption.”
Many thanks are addressed to the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, the Jordan Tourism Board, the Baptism Site, and the media outlets invited by the Catholic Center for Studies and Media to cover the press conference as has been the case all the time, the church preparatory committee, as well as to the ambassadors of friendly countries who attended the event and who will convey the joy of this celebration to their countries, which will constitute an invitation to visit Jordan and be blessed by its holy water and soil. Thanks are also conveyed to the scouts, the Christian youth, and the hymn singers who were led by Mrs. Mira Smairat, in the presence of the Lebanese hymn singer Christiane Najjar. Profound thanks are also conveyed to the Arab Army, the Public Security Department, and all security apparatuses whose presence was distinguished, sublime, and with a high degree of respect for every person participating in the 24th pilgrimage anniversary of 2024.