St. John the Baptist Chapel, on the West Bank, has announced that it will reopen for Mass in January 2021.
For over 50 years, the site has been unapproachable because it was scattered with landmines. Now, after clearing the field, this historic site will begin to welcome tourists and pilgrims once more. The first Mass will be fittingly on the Feast of St. John the Baptist.
Franciscan Father Ibrahim Faltas, chancellor of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land announced that the first Mass will resume on January 10, 2021. He said “It will be a very special day. After all this time, we have come back. This gives us hope for peace. For us, this is a sign not to lose hope, not to lose hope for peace.”
The almost 100-year-old church and monastery were vacated in 1967 at the outbreak of war between Israel and some of its Arab neighbours, including Jordan, just across the Jordan River. After Israel took control of the area from Jordan, the area was laid out with land mines by both the Israeli army and Palestinian gunmen who battled in the area in the 1960s and 1970s. It became a fenced military zone, off limits to pilgrims.
Father Faltas said the Franciscans first started coming to this place in 1641 and began purchasing land in the area in early 1920 to build churches. In 1933, they built a chapel, which is now located on the edge of the river, and in 1935 built a larger St. John the Baptist Church, which was destroyed in an earthquake in 1956, and the existing chapel was built in its place.
Main Photo: A file photo of members of the clergy preparing for a mass in a chapel on the Israeli side of the Jordan River at the Qasr el Yahud baptism site, in the West Bank near Jericho, on the day of the Baptism of the Lord. The baptism of Jesus is generally considered as the start of his ministry, shortly after the start of the ministry of John the Baptist. and is one of the milestones in the gospel narrative of Jesus’ life. EPA/JIM HOLLANDER
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