POPE VISITS THE RIVER JORDAN

March 21st (EWTNews) After celebrating his first Papal Mass in the Holy Land at Amman Jordan to an enthusiastic crowd of over 50,000, Pope John Paul II traveled by helicopter to Wadi Al-Kharrar. It is a traditional baptismal site on the east bank of the Jordan River, the site where Christ was baptized by John the Baptist, and where the Lord sanctified water as a means of the sacrament of Baptism. It is also a site indicated for centuries by the Christians who in pilgrimage used to come to bath in the river and renew their baptismal vows. The site being visited today by Pope John Paul II is in a military zone as a result of the six day war, but now the government of Jordan has plans to develop on this location a Park of the Baptism.

Upon arriving at Wadi Al-Kharrar, the Holy Father was greeted to cheers of "Viva La Papa" and escorted by the ceremonial Jordanian honor guard mounted on horses as he traveled in the Popemobile to the banks of the River Jordan.

 He stopped on a specially prepared platform under a stoned-arch to pray.

5_ic.jpg (6358 bytes)In the presence of 2,000 people, the prayer service opened with the Pope asking for the grace of God. Then the Gospel of Luke was read in which it is recounted how John was baptized in the river. The Holy Father began with these remarks, "In the Gospel of St. Luke we read that 'the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness; and he went into all the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.' Here, at the River Jordan, where both banks are visited by hosts of pilgrims honoring the Baptism of the Lord, I too lift up my heart in prayer." Then he gave a prayer of blessing to the Holy Trinity, recalling the Baptism of Jesus.

After the prayer service, the Holy Father traveled by helicopter to Queen Alia Airport in Amman, Jordan, where following a farewell ceremony with King Abdallah II of Jordan and religious and civil authorities, he departed for Tel Aviv, Israel. Pope John Paul II will be the second Pope in history to go to Jerusalem.