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Orthodox Church being built at site of Christs Baptism


Cornerstone of new church laid near River Jordan site where Christ is
believed to have been baptized

Fri Jan 17, 1:33 PM ET

WADI Al-KHARRAR, Jordan - The cornerstone of a new Greek Orthodox church was
laid Friday near a River Jordan site were Jesus Christ is believed by many
to have been baptized.

Princess Mona, the mother of Jordan's king, was among the more than 6,000
worshippers and government officials who attended a ceremony at the site at
Wadi Al-Kharrar, some 45 kilometers (28 miles) west of the Jordanian capital
Greek Orthodox Archimandrite Christofos Hanna held mass at the site where
the new church's cornerstone was laid. The Byzantine-styled Church of St.
John is expected to be finished early 2004, according to ceremony
coordinator Audeh Qawass.
The area is where John the Baptist is believed to have lived and preached
for a time and baptized Christ.

The exact place where John baptized Christ has long been disputed.

Jordanian archaeologists in 1996 discovered the remains of a Byzantine
church, the Church of St. John the Baptist, nearby the Wadi Al-Kharrar site
at Bethany
Jordanians regard this as proof that Bethany was the spot and that Christ
was baptized on the eastern bank of the River Jordan and not the western, as
some people claim in Israel.

When Pope John Paul II visited the area in 2000, he did not rule on which
bank the baptism occurred. But he subsequently put Bethany on the Roman
Catholic Church's list of pilgrimage locations.

There are at least 50 biblical and historic sites scattered across Jordan,
which has served throughout history as a crossroads for Jewish, Christian
and Muslim pilgrims.
Christians in Jordan represent up to five percent of the population of 5
million, the bulk of them are Greek Orthodox.


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