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Pilgrims pray for peace, stability at Epiphany mass

By Muath Freij - Jan 11,2014 - Last updated at Jan 11,2014

BAPTISM SITEThousands of pilgrims from across the world prayed for peace and stability in the region during the Epiphany celebration at the Baptism Site on Friday.

Epiphany marks the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Messiah and the second person of the Holy Trinity — along with God and the Holy Spirit — which Christians believe took place at the time of his baptism by John the Baptist.

Epiphany is celebrated in Western churches, while Eastern churches observe a similar feast known as Theophany.

Pilgrims from Jordan, Iraq, Syria, the Philippines and Europe flocked to the site, where Jesus Christ was baptised by John the Baptist according to Christian belief, to celebrate the occasion and visit the area.

Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal led the Epiphany mass at the Church of the Baptism of Jesus Christ.

“We pay tribute to the Kingdom for receiving the arrivals who we do not call refugees, but rather human brothers, friends and fraternal Arabs,” he said.

“We pray for peace in their country and for ending the whirlpool of violence and destruction,” the Latin Patriarch told the congregation during the mass at the church, which is still under construction.

Twal also called for the release of religious figures such as archbishops, priestsandnuns who were kidnapped in Syria.

Rifaat Bader, spokesperson of the Catholic Church in Jordan, told The Jordan Times that this year’s celebration is unique because it commemorates the visit of Pope Paul VI to Jordan 50 years ago.

Pope Francis also will visit Jordan and the Church of the Baptism of Jesus Christ, where the mass was held,” added Bader, who is also director of the Catholic Centre for Studies and Media.

The Baptism Site Commission and various church representatives in the Kingdom began organising Epiphany celebrations at the site in 2000.

Saaida Habeeb, who came from Iraq with her family, said she attended the mass to pray for peace and stability in the region.

“I hope that God will listen to our prayers and make our wishes come true.”

Azar Qusai, Habeeb’s husband, said visiting the Baptism Site in the Jordan Valley was the main reason that drew him to the Kingdom.

“I hope that peace will prevail in my country,” he told The Jordan Times.

Iraqi pilgrim Thamer Bolos prayed for peace in Syria, which has been witnessing violence for more than two years.

“I hope that the region will be as peaceful as it used to be in the past,” he said as he took video footage of the site, also known as Bethany Beyond the Jordan.

Ayoub Al Lamaa, who came from the northern city of Irbid, prayed for his family’s well-being.

“One of my relatives is a Tawjihi [General Secondary Certificate Examination] student and I wish him all the best,” he said.

Meanwhile, the pilgrims commended the Baptism Site’s services, which develop and improve every year.

Adham Asem, a 23-year-old Jordanian who visited the site for the third time on Friday, said reaching churches and places of worship within the Baptism Site has become easier compared to the past.

“It is now really easy to walk around the site,” he noted.

His friend, Lamaa, agreed, explaining that they walked long distances in the past, but can use buses now.

“Transportation to the site is really easy and accessible for everyone,” he added.

Elisa Flores, a visitor from the Philippines, said she has been to the site several times, but was attending the Epiphany ceremony for the first time.

“It is a really nice event and well-organised,” she added.

Shammas Steifan, a visitor from Iraq, said what impressed him most was how secure the site and the event were.

“You can feel the security in Jordan amidst the instability in the region these days.”

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