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Sunday, January 11, the Franciscan friars accompanied Father Custos to the Jordan’s shore in order to commemorate the baptism of Jesus. This feast makes part of the three manifestations of Jesus as Christ and son of God, together with the Epiphany (celebrated last week) and the Marriage at Cana (next Sunday).
The first stop took place in Jericho, in the parish of the Good Shepherd. The priest, Fr. Mario Hadchiti, and the local authorities welcomed the meeting in the garden. The governor of the city, Majed Fityani, emphasized the unity of the Palestinian people, made up of Christians and Muslims. He excused the absence of other representatives who went to France to symbolize the fight against terrorism during the march in Paris.
The Holy Land Custos, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa also highlighted the example of Christian-Muslim coexistence in Palestine. There are of course problems but the prevailing positive spirit allows them to be solved. Thanking the authorities for helping Christians, he guaranteed that the Custody would always be there to support them through prayer or action.
The Franciscans have then taken the bus to Qasr Al Yahud, place of baptism of Christ near the Jordan. There they found the parishioners and pilgrims came by coach, fewer than in previous years because of the cold. The General Consulate of Spain and Italy sent representatives. All of them joined the river in procession to the rhythm of kawas who led the march at the sound of “Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat” sung by the crowd.
After the water was blessed and the congregation sprinkled, the outdoor Mass began. The homily of Fr. Mario focused on the gospel of baptism (Mark 1: 7-11). A “short but meaningful gospel in which God, by presenting his beloved son, asks us to listen to the message of the Saviour”. It is a place that invites us, Christians, to wake up, to be honest with ourselves, and to put Jesus in the first place of our lives.
After mass it was time for photos at a Jordan’s shore swelled by the recent heavy rains. A little girl, baptised during the mass, had the right to a photo with the Custos, while conversations continued around the river.
While the weather forecasts led to the cancellation of the traditional picnic in Jericho, the only water that fell upon the faithful was the blessed water of the Jordan with which the Custos abundantly sprinkled the faithful. We bet it will not fail to bear fruit for the faith of the faithful.