For the first time in 54 years, a Mass will be celebrated Jan. 10, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, at St. John the Baptist Chapel on the banks of the Jordan River.
“It will be a very special day,” said Franciscan Father Ibrahim Faltas, chancellor of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, which cares for holy sites. “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 neighbors, 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.
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