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A pilgrimage through the desert to the Jordan River to celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus on Sunday, January 8, 2017.
Father Nerwan recalls that the site of the baptism of Jesus is under the government of Israel and that it was accessible only once a year with a special permit. After being closed for decades, it was reopened to the public in 2012.
Father NERWAN NASSER, ofm
Parish Priest – St. Savior – Jerusalem
"This is the Holy Land, and it is not just for Christians, Jews or Muslims, but for everyone, because it is ultimately the Holy Land. Therefore, this land is a blessing for the people from Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Ramleh and from around the world who come here to participate in Jesus' life events."
A long procession winds its way from the Good Shepherd Convent in Jericho to the area under military control.
Here, the civil and religious authorities meet with the local Christian community to continue the procession on foot. The path that leads to the place of baptism is a carefully demarcated way, because it is surrounded by minefields.
The images are striking: a multitude which, along with the Custos of the Holy Land, Francesco Patton, the Custodial Vicar, Dobromir Jaztal and the Parish Priest of Jericho, Mario Hadchiti, continues to fulfill the mission entrusted to the Franciscan Order eight centuries ago: to be custodians of the Holy Places. By celebrating Mass in the important site of the baptism of Jesus, the friars keep alive the bond with local Christians and with the pilgrims from around the world.
After the blessing of water and the prayer recited on the banks of the Jordan River, a Mass was celebrated by Father Francesco Patton. The Gospel according to Matthew recounts the episode in which Jesus asks John the Baptist to be baptized. "
The ceremony was enlivened by the baptism of George and Lucas, two children from the local parishes who indeed received the sacrament with the water from the Jordan River.
Fr. PEDRO FERNANDES
"After Christmas, this is the Feast through which God gives us His son, here in these waters. Here the Lord appeared to us as the Son of God, this was the beginning of his public life. Therefore, celebrating this Feast in this place is also a reminder of our own baptism, because we too must be heralds of Christ.”
This celebration is as important for pilgrims and foreigners living in the Holy Land as for the local Christians.
Local Christian Man
"It is a great honor and a great pride for us to be Christians in the Holy Land, where Jesus lived. We could fail to grasp its worth, but one can see the sincere involvement and participation in Jesus' life events on the faces of tourists and pilgrims who visit this land. And this fact should give us the motivation to appreciate the value of the places where we are able to experience the same things Jesus Christ lived."
We all would love to stay a little longer here, on the banks of this river full of biblical stories, but we must continue the journey. The pilgrimage goes on with a visit to the Greek-Orthodox monastery built on Mount Quarantine. This name is linked to the memory of the forty days Jesus spent in the desert before the beginning of his public life.