On Friday, January 13, 2023, the Catholic Churches marked the 23rd annul and national pilgrimage day to the Baptism Site of Lord Jesus Christ during which a solemn Holy Mass was celebrated by Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa in the presence of thousands of pilgrims from various cities and villages in Jordan.
The Holy Mass was attended by a number of bishops including the delegation of the Bishops of the Holy Land Coordination that has arrived in the Holy Land from European countries and northern America, in addition to a number of Parliament members, dignitaries, ambassadors, representatives of the diplomatic corps accredited to Jordan, as well as priests, nuns, and a large number of believers.
During the religious ceremony, Patriarch Pizzaballa sprinkled the people with the holy water of the Jordan River, and delivered a homily in which he talked about the spiritual and human meanings of baptism, saying: "Baptism is pride, but it is also a responsibility designed to spread love as well as humanitarian and spiritual values."
Furthermore, during the religious ceremony, supplications and prayers were lifted up for the perpetuation of security and stability in Jordan under the wise Hashemite leadership, and for consolidating national unity. Prayers were also said for peace and justice in Jerusalem, Palestine, in addition to other countries of the region and the world.
The Holy Mass concluded with an address delivered by Secretary of the Latin Patriarchate Fr. Imad Alamat during which he thanked, on behalf of the Latin Patriarchate, all the Catholic Churches, all governmental departments, as well as security and ecclesiastical agencies that worked jointly to ensure the success of the Catholic Pilgrimage Day for the year 2023. He also thanked the ambassadors and bishops of friendly countries for their love for Jordan and for visiting the Baptism Site. He also wished that the year 2023 would be prosperous with the presence of pilgrims from all over the world to holy Jordan.
Prior to the religious ceremony, Patriarch Pizzaballa said during the press conference held by the Catholic Center for Studies and Media (CCSM): "We pay prime attention to this holy place and affirm our support for the project designed to develop the Baptism Site which was announced by His Majesty King Abdullah II and His Royal Highness Prince GhaziI Ibn Mohammad."
He pointed out that the project to develop the Baptism Site will encourage pilgrims and believers from all over the world to come, not only for a few hours, to this place but to spend days and nights particularly as all the facilities that the pilgrims need will be availed.
During the press conference-- which was attended by Secretary General of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities Dr. Imad Hijazin, Director General of the Baptism Site Commission Rustom Makjian, and representative of the Jordan Tourism Board Amer Twal--Patriarch Pizzaballa recalled Pope Benedict XVI who had stood with the company of His Majesty King Abdullah II and Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah to lay the foundation stone for the Catholic Baptism Church on May 10, 2009, and urged friends everywhere to help as much as possible in the process of completing the construction of this church which will be a wonderful masterpiece bearing the name of the Baptism of Lord Jesus Christ on the eastern bank of the River Jordan. He indicated that the church will be surrounded by two monasteries one for priests and the other for nuns which will be spacious enough to welcome youths, clerics, and pilgrims who wish to conduct their spiritual activities in silence, tranquility and live in the wilderness of John the Baptist.
For his Part, CCSM Director Fr. Dr. Rif'at Bader said that the Catholic Churches in Jordan has been used to participate in the Catholic Pilgrimage Day to the Baptism Site on the second week of January, noting that this is the first pilgrimage Day after the elimination of Corona pandemic and the 23rd anniversary of pilgrimage after Pope John Paul II had endorsed this site as a site for Christian pilgrimage in 2000, among five main Jordanian sites in addition to Mount Nebo, Mar Elias, Makawer, and Our Lady of the Mount in Anjara.
Fr. Bader paid tribute to all the efforts exerted to develop this site, as well as of the efforts made to develop the lands adjacent to the Baptism Site. He also lauded the daily efforts conducted by the Baptism Commission, the Royal Baptism Authority headed by His Royal Highness Prince Ghazi Ibn Muhammad, as well as the governmental efforts represented by the Ministry of Tourism and the Jordan Tourism Board, the church committees and all the affiliated functionaries that worked in concert to celebrate this blessed day. He also thanked all the efforts exerted by the security departments, the Armed Forces, the Public Security Department, the Civil Defence Department, and all the agencies that work for the good of this country, for the interest of the citizens, and for the preservation of the sanctity of this holy place.
Bishop Nicolas Hudson, head of the delegation of the Coordination of Bishops in Support of the Church of the Holy Land that arrived from Britain, presented a briefing on the delegation’s goals and the nature of its annual presence in the Holy Land and Jordan this year. Expressing his great happiness to be in this holy place for the first time, he said: "We will return home while being happy, proud and holy from this place, and we will encourage other bishops and believers to come on pilgrimage trips to Jordan, the Holy Land.
Following the press conference, Patriarch Pizzaballa presided at the solemn pilgrimage Holy Mass for this year, which was concelebrated by Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan Bishop Jamal D'aibes, Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop of Jordan Joseph Jbara, Chargé d’Affaires of the Apostolic Nunciature in Jordan Msgr. Mauro Lalli, in addition to heads of Maronite, Chaldean, Syriac, and Catholic Churches in Jordan.