March 15, 2000

VATICAN ( -- The small Catholic community in Jordan
is delighted with the prospect of a visit by Pope John Paul II-- 26
years after Pope Paul VI visited the country.

The Pontiff will arrive in Amman, Jordan's capital, on March 20, on
the first leg of his trip to the Holy Land. Msgr. Khaled Akasheh, the
sole Jordanian native working the Roman Curia, reports that the visit
is being eagerly anticipated by the country's Christian minority.

As Msgr. Akasheh sees it, the papal visit to Jordan will fulfill three

First, the visit will be the first step in the Pope's Jubilee pilgrimage to
the Holy Land. He will visit Mount Nebo, the site southwest of
Amman from which Moses looked out over the Promised Land before
he died. A small Franciscan monastery now stands on that site, from
which the Pope will be able to look out over the Jordan valley, and
see Jericho and, in the distance, Jerusalem. He will also visit Wadi Al-
Kharrar, on the Jordan River, which is recognized by Jordan's people
as the site of Christ's baptism.

Second, the Pope's visit will invigorate the small Catholic community.
There are only about 60,000 Catholics in the Jordan-- a figure that
represents just 1 percent of the population. Most of the country's
people are Muslim, and most Christians are Greek Orthodox. But the
Pope will celebrate a Mass (in the Latin rite) at an outdoor stadium
in Amman on March 21, honoring the country's patron, St. John the

Finally, the Pope's trip will provide an opportunity for
acknowledging the important role played by the Jordanian royal
family in the Middle East peace process. The late King Hussein was an
important influence in favor of peace, with whom Pope John Paul
struck up a warm personal friendship. King Abdallah II, has
promised to continue his father's efforts.