Pilgrims march towards the Jordan River to participate in a baptism ceremony at the Qasr el-Yahud site, near Jericho, in the West Bank
Pilgrims march towards the Jordan River to participate in a baptism ceremony at the Qasr el-Yahud site, near Jericho, in the West Bank
Photo: Reuters
Pilgrims march towards the Jordan River to participate in a baptism ceremony at the Qasr el-Yahud site, near Jericho, in the West Bank

Mine-free River Jordan shrine ends 50 year wait for Epiphany

Cleared minefield in the former war zone between Israel and Jordan allows once-abandoned Christian holy site to reopen in the area believed to be the site of Jesus' baptism

Reuters |
Published: 01.10.21 , 22:56
A shrine near the traditional site of Jesus' baptism on the River Jordan hosted an Epiphany procession for the first time in more than 50 years on Sunday after it was declared free of landmines.
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  • Father Francesco Patton, the custodian of the Holy Land for the Roman Catholic church, led Franciscan friars towards a shrine in what was once a war zone between Israel and Jordan.
    Pilgrims march towards the Jordan River to participate in a baptism ceremony at the Qasr el-Yahud site, near Jericho, in the West BankPilgrims march towards the Jordan River to participate in a baptism ceremony at the Qasr el-Yahud site, near Jericho, in the West Bank
    Pilgrims march towards the Jordan River to participate in a baptism ceremony at the Qasr el-Yahud site, near Jericho, in the West Bank
    (Photo: Reuters)
    Although the two countries have been at peace since 1994, seven churches laid abandoned for more than 50 years in the area of de-mining operations. The area lies about a kilometer (0.62 miles) from the Qasr al-Yahud baptism site in the West Bank, which is a major draw for Christian pilgrims.
    "Today, we are back to pray," Father Ibrahim Faltas, one of the clergymen at the ceremony, said. Attendance at the procession, which commemorates the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, was capped at 50 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
    Custodian of the Holy Land Father Francesco Patton attends a mass at the Franciscan Church that was reopened after landmines were removed at the Qasr el-Yahud site, near JerichoCustodian of the Holy Land Father Francesco Patton attends a mass at the Franciscan Church that was reopened after landmines were removed at the Qasr el-Yahud site, near Jericho
    Custodian of the Holy Land Father Francesco Patton attends a mass at the Franciscan Church that was reopened after landmines were removed at the Qasr el-Yahud site, near Jericho
    (Photo: Reuters)
    Israeli de-mining efforts began in 2018 and included support from the Halo Trust, a Scottish-based mine clearance group, an Israeli official said.
    As of 2021, "the danger has been completely removed," a branch of Israel's defense ministry said.
    After visiting the shrine, the friars passed fading signs reading "DANGER - MINES!" in English, Arabic and Hebrew as they went down to the river to pray.
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