The feast commemorating the baptism of Jesus took place on Sunday 8 January on the banks of the Jordan River. Now that the site has at last been reopened, the Custody of the Holy Land is again able to celebrate in the place of the liturgical feast.
This is how the events of the day were recounted to us by Father Artemio Vitores, vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land:
“On 8 January we went to the Jordan River. We had changed the date, in order to go back to that of ancient times, to the Sunday following the Epiphany commemorating the Baptism of Jesus. We started in Jericho, at our monastery, greeting the Palestinian authorities. Then we moved on to the Jordan River: a Solemn Procession and Holy Mass. This time we celebrated not in our chapel, but beside the Jordan River, almost touching the water, since the Jews have set up a large platform there. There were about 1,200 people, coming mainly from the parishes of Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jaffa, etc. Everything very lovely, also because it was a splendid day. (…). Afterwards we went up to Mount Quarantania and then returned to our monastery for lunch. Very lovely, everybody pleased.”
The friars of the Custody of the Holy Land continue to fulfill the mission entrusted to the Franciscan Order eight centuries ago: that of being the custodians of the Holy Places. By celebrating the mass in the place of Jesus’ baptism, they are maintaining alive the bond of local Christians and pilgrims from throughout the world to this important place.
Afterwards, the Franciscans and all of the participants in this Sunday celebration joined together in the Parish of the Good Shepherd for refreshments.
The project “Jericho, aid to Christians in need”, supported by ATS pro Terra Sancta, has recently been set up to provide assistance to this parish and to the small Christian community of Jericho. Assistance to the families most in need, support for the educational programs of the Custody of the Holy Land, with particular attention focused on the most fragile elements of the population, notably children and the elderly: these are the major objectives promoted by the project, thanks to the contributions from numerous supporters and friends of the Holy Land.