DAILY CATHOLIC     WEDNESDAY     July 21, 1999     vol. 10, no. 135

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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Basic Accomodations to be in Place by 2000

          WADI KHARRAR, JORDAN, JUL 19 (ZENIT).- A lush valley lined with palm trees and the ruins of Byzantine churches is all that marks the presumed site of Jesus' baptism today. The excavations at Wadi Kharrar, Jordan, began two years ago, and preparations for the Jubilee are now underway.

          The springs of Wadi Kharrar are about 1.3 miles to the east of the Jordan River. Archeologists now believe that Jesus was baptized in these waters, rather than the fast flowing and dirty waters of the Jordan proper. Jordan's Tourism Minister Akel Beltaji and his team of archeologists have issued an open challenge to theological archeologists to disprove their theory.

          The theory is bolstered by the discovery of an early Christian settlement on a nearby hill, which would be identified with "Bethany beyond the Jordan" of Biblical fame. The ruins of a Byzantine monastery and three churches were also found at the site. The Holy See has concurred that the theory is probable, supporting the location as a possible pilgrimage site for the year 2000.

          The Holy See's representative in Amman, Dominique Rezeau, told the AFP agency that Vatican theologians believe Jesus was "most probably" baptized on the Jordanian side of the river, despite rival claims of Israel.

          At present, however, the site is rather difficult to find, nestled in a sea of banana plantations. There are not even signs marking the road to the site, which until 1994 was on the front line of the Israel-Jordan war.

          Nonetheless, Jubilee preparations are beginning. Beltaji stressed that he would not want "millions of tourists" to swarm the site during the year 2000, but stated the the basics would be in place to welcome visitors and pilgrims.

          "It won't be a Disney World," he told AFP, "but the place will be accessible." In the long term, Beltaji hopes to develop a site along the River Jordan without jeopardizing the fragile archeological remains at Wadi Kharrar. ZE99071920

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

July 21, 1999       volume 10, no. 135


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