On Saturday, January 9, the Catholic Churches in Jordan marked the national and Christian pilgrimage to the Baptism Site of Lord Jesus Christ which is headed by Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem His Beatitude Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa.
Upon arrival at the Baptism Site, Minister of Tourism and Antiquity Nayef Al-Fayez welcomed Patriarch Pizzaballa and the accompanying Church delegation.
This was followed by a press conference organized by the Catholic Center for Studies and Media (CCSM), during which CCSM Director Fr. Dr. Rif’at Bader welcomed the new Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem who is currently making an official and pastoral visit to the Jordan, which 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 modern time 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 limited numbers of people. However, it is an occasion for prayers and supplications from this holy place so that the pandemic and its ramifications would be eliminated, conditions would improve, people would restore good health and well-being, as well as religious tourism would flourish as has been the case a year ago, namely prior to the year of the emergence of the pandemic.
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, as has been the case every year, despite the change in my different title. I come as the patriarch of the Holy City on a pilgrimage to this blessed land, the land of Jordan, and the land of Baptism. Here Lord Jesus Christ stood, taught, and was baptized by John the Baptist, with this site becoming 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 hoped that this misery would come to an end soon so 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” and consequently celebrations would be restored and the Holy Places would welcome thousands of pilgrims as has been the case in the past years.
Then, the procession proceeded to the Baptism Church on the bank of the River Jordan 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, a number of 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 has been 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, the waters of the River Jordan were blessed. Patron of the celebration Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa delivered a 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 ramifications of the pandemic, which included lockdowns and difficulties, should not lead the faithful to believe that their lives would remain affected by Corona. He also called in this context to "live a life in its fullness in the likeness of Lord Jesus Christ, at all times, and in accordance with what He had to do 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 every one according to one’s own circumstances, what the Almighty Lord requires from us now. In other words, we are also required to grow in wisdom and grace before God and before the people.”
Patriarch Pizzaballa concluded his homily by praying for the sick and for those who work these days to preserve the heath of citizens under the leadership of His Majesty King Abdullah II Ben Al Hussein, Crown Prince His Royal Highness 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, the leader of the blessed march His Majesty King Abdullah II Ben Al-Hussein, 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 safe haven for all brethren and a relief for all those in need and who are looking for warmth and human dignity.
After the end of the Holy Mass, 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 which are 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.