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‘Adding Baptism Site to World Heritage List grants it further int’l recognition’

By JT - Jul 06,2015 - Last updated at Jul 06,2015

Pope Francis prays at the Baptism Site during a visit to Jordan in May 2014 (Photo by Muath Freij)

AMMAN — Adding Jordan’s Baptism Site to UNESCO’s World Heritage List debunks Israeli claims that the site is on the western side of the Jordan River, Senator Adel Tweisi, chairman of the Senate’s Tourism Committee, said Monday.

The decision boosts the site’s religious status as one of the “holiest” Christian locations in the world, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, quoted Tweisi as saying. 

This global recognition will promote the Baptism Site internationally since it will be included on the world tourism map, he highlighted, adding that the location will be clearly shown on the eastern bank of the Jordan River. 

Jordan’s Baptism Site was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List, to become the fifth site in the Kingdom included in the list after Petra, Quseir Amra, Um Al Rassas and Wadi Rum.

The decision was taken last Friday during a World Heritage Committee meeting in Bonn, Germany, where the panel met to examine proposals to inscribe 37 properties.

Also known as Bethany Beyond the Jordan, the site is the location where Jesus Christ was baptised by John the Baptist according to Christian beliefs.

Located some 50km west of Amman and 10km north of the Dead Sea, Bethany Beyond the Jordan annually receives more than 90,000 Christian pilgrims, according to the Jordan Tourism Board.

The addition of the site to the list is of global importance, which took place thanks to the efforts of His Majesty King Abdullah and HRH Prince Ghazi to support the culture of tolerance among different religions in the Kingdom, MP Munir Zawaideh, president of the Lower House’s Tourism Committee told Petra. 

Bethany Beyond the Jordan has gained the recognition of various churches around the world as the actual site where John the Baptist baptised Jesus Christ.

The Bible explicitly mentions Bethany east of the river as the place where John the Baptist lived and baptised, according to UNESCO.

“Bethany, beyond the Jordan, where John was baptising,” according to John 1:28, while John 10:40 mentions an incident when Jesus escaped from hostile Jews in Jerusalem and “went away again across the Jordan to the place where John at first baptised”.

The settlement where John the Baptist lived and baptised, includes the hill where the Prophet Elijah is said to have ascended to heaven on a chariot of fire, according to Christian beliefs.

The site also includes a large number of historic churches, baptismal pools and caves that were inhabited by priests.

In 2002, faithful Christians commemorated the baptism of Christ there for the first time since the site’s discovery in 1997, after the area was demilitarised following the 1994 peace treaty with Israel.

Since then, thousands of Christian pilgrims from around the world annually mark Theophany and Epiphany at the site.

Epiphany (known to Greek Orthodox as Theophany) marks the revelation of Jesus Christ as the son of God through his baptism and the beginning of his public ministry, according to Christian beliefs.


Pope Francis was the third pontiff to pray at the Baptism Site during a visit to Jordan last May.
Pope John Paul II visited the site in March 2000 and held a mass there, while Pope Benedict XVI went in May 2009 and blessed the foundation stone of the Latin and Greek Melkite churches, according to the Baptism Site’s official website.

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