The River Jordan is also one of the scenarios of the commemoration of the 800th anniversary of the pilgrimage of peace by St Francis in the Holy Land, with Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, taking part in this event on Wednesday 2nd October.
In the morning, after having given a lecture at the Convent of St Saviour in Jerusalem, Cardinal Sandri, together with the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, the Apostolic Nuncio Mons. Leopoldo Girelli and a delegation of Franciscan friars, visited the site of Qasr Al-Yahud , the place where the Baptism of Jesus is commemorated, located on the western bank of the River Jordan and where, in 1950, the ruins of a 9th century chapel were discovered. On this site there is a small Franciscan convent, surrounded since 1967 by a minefield which in recent years has been cleared.
Guided by Fr. Eugenio Alliata, archaeologist of the StudiumBiblicum Franciscanum and Director of the Terra Sancta Museum, Cardinal Sandri visited the Franciscan place and the site where Jesus was baptized by St John the Baptist. After a visit to the Convent and to the Church of the Custody of the Holy Land, the Cardinal led a short moment of prayer which came to an end on the bank of the River Jordan.
What does being able to celebrate Holy Mass in this place mean for Franciscans? According to Fr. Patton, it means re-establishing the thread of tradition. “In the past few years,” he said, “we have always celebrated in another place on the banks of the River Jordan. Clearly for us it will be very significant to be able to return to where traditionally the Franciscans welcomed the pilgrims. Getting back this Shrine will be a further step in carrying out the mission that the Church has entrusted to us. This mission is not only to be custodians of the shrines, but to get them back, restore them and make them accessible."
Thanks to Silvonei José Protz