Jericho (AsiaNews/Agencies) – No immersion in the waters of the Jordan River this year for Orthodox believers who gathered on its shores to celebrate the Feast Day of the Baptism of Jesus. They were prevented by Israeli security forces.
Several thousands of pilgrims were able never the less to take part in a prayer service celebrated by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilus III at the Qasr el-Yahud Monastery dedicated to St John the Baptist on the west bank of the river, a site which the Israelis closed at the start of the second Intifada in 2000 and have generally kept off limits ever since. Even on this exceptional occasion Israeli soldiers were all over the place.
At the end of the ceremony the faithful walked in procession to the river bank where according to tradition Jesus was baptised.
Thousands of pilgrims also gathered for a similar ceremony on the east bank of the river, in Jordan, which for some years has claimed that its side of the waterway is the true place where the baptism was performed.