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Officials, church leaders denounce Israel Baptism scheme

7/31/2011

Tourists take pictures at the Baptism Site (File photo)
Tourists take pictures at the Baptism Site (File photo)

AMMAN (Petra) - Senior officials, senators, lawmakers and Church leaders on Saturday denounced recent statements by Israeli authorities on the Judith Church on the west bank of the River Jordan and renaming it the "Baptism Church".

Senior officials, bishops and Christian clergymen stressed that excavations have clearly proved that the eastern side of the River Jordan is the place where Jesus Christ was baptised, known worldwide as the "Baptism Site", contrary to what the Israelis claimed.

During a meeting yesterday at the interior ministry, they emphasised that it is an “unquestionable historical and religious fact” that Jordan’s Baptism Site is the place where Christ was baptised.

Minister of Interior Mazen Saket said the Baptism Site has been recognised by several top Christian leaders and historians, adding that the site was inaugurated by the late Pope John Paul II in 2000.

"We were shocked in Jordan to see the Israelis inaugurating a new site on the west bank of the River Jordan [Judith Church] and naming it after the baptismة despite well-known historical and religious facts," Saket said yesterday.

Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Haifa Abu Ghazaleh said that upon receiving information that Israel was planning to inaugurate a Baptism site on the West Bank of the River Jordan, a meeting was held with the Israeli side and they said they had nothing to do with the ceremony.

She added that the ceremony was held on July 13 and was attended by senior Israeli officials and several Christian clergymen.

Abu Ghazaleh added that the ministry sent a memorandum to HRH Prince Ghazi, the King’s special adviser and personal envoy and head of the Baptism Site Commission, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs updating them on the development.

Latin Bishop of Amman Salim Sayegh noted that the issue is of prime significance as it lies at the core of Christianity, calling for conducting scientific studies to better promote the historical fact that the eastern side of the River Jordan was the place where Jesus Christ was baptised.

Other church leaders took turns to comment of the various aspects of the issue, calling for action to counter the Israeli move.

       
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