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Religious Tourism

Jordan River to host thousands of pilgrims

eTN Staff Writer  Jan 08, 2009

Thousands of Christian pilgrims are expected to congregate at the “baptism site” at the Jordan River to mark Epiphany and pilgrimage day.

Religious ceremonies will be held at the holy site (also known as Bethany Beyond the Jordan) in two events marking the occasion according to the western calendar on Friday, January 9, and the Eastern calendar on Friday, January 16.

Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal and Bishop Salim Sayegh of the Latin Patriarchate for Jordan will preside over a special mass on January 9 at the Jordan River at the spot where Jesus Christ was baptized. The ceremony will also be attended by bishops and clergymen of other Christian denominations marking this occasion according to the Gregorian calendar, in addition to officials, members of the diplomatic corps, and thousands of pilgrims.

Greek Orthodox Bishop Benedictus will preside over another mass that will be held on Friday, January 16, for Christian denominations following the Eastern calendar. Both events will commence at 10:00 am and will be followed by consecration of the waters of the Jordan River.

The pilgrimage and Epiphany mass have become an annual tradition, where Christian pilgrims from Jordan and around the world gather at the Baptism Site which was discovered in 1988.

The site, where John the Baptist lived and Jesus Christ was baptized, is considered as one of the most significant religious discoveries in biblical archaeology. Excavations have already uncovered more than 20 churches, caves and baptismal pools dating from the Roman and Byzantine periods.

The site has undergone a series of renovation works by Jordan’s Baptism Site Commission to provide visitors with easy and secure access. It has drawn 280,000 tourists (mostly European) in 2008, which represents a rise of 86 percent over 2007.

The commission has been implementing a major development plan that will transform the site (known as al-Maghtas in Arabic) into a global pilgrimage destination. Churches from five different Christian denominations are building facilities and houses on the grounds of the site, including a Russian pilgrimage house, a Roman catholic church, a Roman orthodox monastery and a Coptic church.

Pope Benedict XVI is expected to visit the holy site in May during which he will lay the corner stone for the Latin Church under construction at the moment. He will be the second pope to visit the baptism site after Pope John Paul II, who paid a special pilgrimage in the year 2000.

Jordan River to host thousands of pilgrims
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