Here is the homily given by Patriarch Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, during the annual pilgrimage to the site of Jesus’ baptism, held Jan. 10. The Church celebrated the Baptism of the Lord last Sunday.
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Happy New Year,
Dear Friends, I welcome the arrivals from Palestine, Iraq and Syria
We stand again by the blessed Jordan River. At the beginning of the new year; I have the pleasure to convey to all of you my brotherly wishes and blessings. I pray with you for the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan hoping that it will stay a minaret of love, cooperation and stability. We also pray for His Majesty King Abdullah, his government and people. We pray that the familial atmospheres continue to dominate people and beloved homeland.
We pay tribute to the Jordanian Kingdom for receiving the arrivals whom we do not call refugees, but rather human brothers, friends and fraternal Arabs. We welcome them and pray for peace in their country and for ending the whirlpool of violence and destruction. From this premise, from a place by the blessed River Jordan, we make a new call for the release of all the kidnapped and incarcerated in Syria, Palestine and Iraq. We refer in particular to bishops, priests and nuns. May the acts of kidnapping, detention and the persecution of the peaceful followers of Lord Jesus come to end.
In this blessed place, exactly 50 years ago, one of the genius and saints of the 20th century walked through this area. He is God’s servant Pope Paul VI. The Church approaches to announce him blessed and later saint. The Pope visited us in January, in other words at this time of the year in 1964. He made a special prayer when his plane landed at Marka Airport. In his prayer he said: “We ask God, the Almighty, to listen to our prayers and to the prayers of all those with well-wishes to live in harmony and stand by each other in a spirit of love and justice to attain universal peace and brotherhood.”
Today, we recall the gracious visit and greet all those who worked at the time to unveil Jordan’s hospitable nature. Since then, we received in this holy place Pope John Paul II in the Jubilee year 2000 and also Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI whom I visited weeks ago and conveyed to him your love, prayers and solidarity. We today remember his visit five years ago at this place accompanied by the Royal Family.
An announcement was made on the historic visit to be undertaken by Pope Francis to the Holy Land in May. He is the guest of the Holy land, the guest of His Majesty the King and all the Jordanians.
We thank the Lord for all these events that follow the “year of faith’ announced by Pope Benedict and concluded by Pope Francis leaving behind us a precious jewel, namely his Apostolic Exhortation: “EVANGELII GAUDIUM ” or the “Joy of the Gospel”. My advice to every one of you to read in order to get acquainted with the contents of this apostolic exhortation on baptism. Pope Francis says in this regard: “With the grace of baptism, every member of the people of God becomes a disciple and a messenger (Mathew 28,29). Every baptized person, no matter what role he/she plays in the Church or the standard attained in faith will become an active person in the conveyance of “The Joy of the Gospel”. Pope Francis concentrates of the role to be shouldered by every baptized person, not only priests, bishops or theologians: for every person “carries Jesus Christ”—carries the message.
In this holy place, we greet all efforts exerted to develop the Baptism Site and make it a touristic attraction. A meeting was held weeks ago with the Minister of tourism, heads of Churches in the Kingdom, the Jordan Board, the Royal Commission for the Baptism Site and the local Media. These five components: the ministry, churches, the board, the commission and the media function in a one team – Work. We bless all trends to form a Committee comprising them. Jordan– a holy country, holy land, holy waters, wise leadership, dear and honorable citizens—deserves all efforts for development, sound reform and permanent cooperation.
I join hands with you to greet all efforts exerted in the direction of the religious touristic development of our country particularly in these months which precede the visit of our beloved Pope. Let us work in the spirit of one team to form a wonderful image of our beloved country in preparation to receive the guest of His Majesty the King, the guest of Jordan and all Jordanians.
Let us not forget to pray for Pope Francis, who requested prayer when he announced his upcoming visit, where Mass will be celebrated on May 24 at the grand Amman Stadium in Amman. I hope to see you all again.
I wish all our sons in Jordan and Diaspora a happy new year
May all Arab countries enjoy peace and stability,
With joy, We offer you our apostolic blessings: In the name of the Father, the Son and the holy Spirit
Patriach Fouad Twal,,
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem