THE SINAI PENINSULA AND ST. CATHERINE'S MONASTERY
VATICAN CITY, FEB 26, 2000 (VIS) - This morning Pope John
visited the Sinai Peninsula and St. Catherine's Monastery,
completing the final phase and focal point of his first
The Sinai Peninsula, 61,000 square kilometers, constitutes
part of Egypt. It is bordered by the Mediterranean on
the north, the
Red Sea on the south, the Suez Canal, inaugurated in 1869,
on the west
and the Gulf of Aqaba on the east. The peninsula consists
plains and flat beaches in the north and arid plateaus
in the center.
The southern edge consists of crystalline blocks which
form the Sinai
Massif where Mount St. Catherine is located, which, at
is the highest point in Egypt.
The monastery of St. Catherine is an Orthodox Church,
its government but not autocephalous. The abbot is elected
community of monks, currently numbering 23, and is consecrated
Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem with the title of
the Sinai, Paran and Raitho.
This is the site of the Biblical "burning bush" where
the Ten Commandments from the Lord. Roots of this bush,
as well as
relics of St. Catherine, can be found inside the monastery.
Hermits originally occupied this site. Byzantine Emperor
built a monastery there in 527 and dedicated the basilica
whose virginity the burning bush symbolized. In the seventh
with the arrival of Islamic conquerors, the monastery
was spared, on
the condition that a small mosque be constructed within
Still today mountain bedouins, who venerate Moses and
traditional guardians of the monastery, pray there.
St. Catherine's monastery has been known by the name of
this martyr of
Alexandria since the ninth century. Originally under the
of Jerusalem, it became independent in 1575.
PV-MOUNT SINAI/ST CATHERINE/SINAI VIS 000226 (310)