‘Friars’ no more

11.01.2012                      16.Tewet. 5772

Pilgerfahrt:

‘Friars’ no more

Franciscans of the Holy Land are now able to celebrate the Baptism of Jesus more than once a year.

On Sunday January 8, Travelujah Holy Land tours arranged for me to accompany the Franciscans of the Holy Land on their annual pilgrimage to the Jordan River. This "annual" trip was rather unique, because the same event was celebrated at the same place… less than three months ago. The reason: Until recently, the Baptismal Site known as "Qasr al Yahud" was a closed military zone, and pilgrims were allowed to go there only once a year, on the last Thursday of October. But last summer the Israeli authorities opened the site all year-round. With the site now much more accessible, the Franciscans decided to move the date of their annual pilgrimage to the most appropriate liturgical time for it, on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, celebrated on the first Sunday after Epiphany (January 6).
The busload of friars left Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem shortly after 8 a.m., with a festive atmosphere on board. The attempts of Fr. Artemio Vitores, the Custodial Vicar, to announce the order of the day on the microphone were periodically interrupted by various jokes and songs. After only a half-hour ride, we made a brief first stop at the Parish of the Good Shepherd in Jericho, where the friars and faithful were welcomed by the local civil authorities. Fifteen minutes later, we were back on the bus and heading for the Jordan River….