(abouna.org) July 29, 2015 – Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal will preside over a solemn Mass to be celebrated on Friday, July 31, marking the annual pilgrimage to the historical and archaeological site of Umm al-Jimal, which is organized for the second successive year by the Jordanian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.
Director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media Fr. Rif’at Bader said that this annual pilgrimage to one of the most important archaeological and touristic sites has a special significance since it is the first Mass ever to be celebrated by a patriarch of Jerusalem, the highest Catholic authority in the Holy land, and since it takes place one month after the announcement of placing the Baptism Site on the World Heritage List which indicates that Jordan is attractive to world tourism. He added that the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities’ organization of this pilgrimage for the second year in a row is indicative of the sound attention and care the ministry pays to the archaeological sites.
On the site of Umm Al-Jimal, Fr. Bader said that the first century BC witnessed the golden era of the small kingdom which was established in southern Jordan by the Arab Nabataean tribes that used to roam the desert with goods. They, consequently, had to establish stations on the road among which was Umm Al-Jimal so as to serve as a resting place between Petra, the capital of the kingdom, and the Levant.
He added that in 557, an outstanding historic event took place in the City of Umm Al-Jimal, namely the inauguration of a cathedral in the city. Delegations from various neighboring dioceses in Jordan, Syria and Palestine arrived to mark the inauguration ceremony. Pointing out that Umm Al-Jimal was at the time well-known for its prestigious status, Fr. Bader recalled that the mosaic map in Madaba includes a drawing of the city of Umm Al-Jimal, its cathedral, the cities and the other centers, which indicates its importance in the Jordanian desert.
Fr. Bader continued that 15 churches were located in Umm Al-Jimal which indicates that Christianity flourished at the time and it had deep roots. He asserted that the oldest church in the region is the Church of Yulianos which can be traced back to the year 345, as this could have been the name of the engineer who built it or the person who financed its construction.
The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities organizes this historic day in order to mark it as an annual pilgrimage day to one of the oldest touristic and historical sites in the Kingdom. Buses are scheduled to head to Um Al-Jimal from various provinces in the Kingdom with celebrations due to start at 6:00pm in the presence of local and international media outlets.