Pope visits historic baptism site in Jordan | world | Hindustan Times
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Pope visits historic baptism site in Jordan

Pope Benedict XVI travelled to the banks of the River Jordan, where some believe John the Baptist baptised his cousin Jesus, to lay foundation stones for two new Catholic churches.

world Updated: May 10, 2009 22:48 IST

Pope Benedict XVI travelled to the banks of the River Jordan, where some believe John the Baptist baptised his cousin Jesus, to lay foundation stones for two new Catholic churches.

The visit came on the third day of the pontiff's Holy Land pilgrimage and followed his celebration of mass earlier Sunday at an Amman football stadium attended by an estimated 30,000 Christians.

Jordan's King Abdullah II, his wife Queen Rania and his advisor on religious affairs Prince Ghazi escorted the pope and his delegation in motorised buggies to the baptism site.

More than 5,000 people, waving Jordanian, Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian, Italian, German and Vatican flags awaited the pope's arrival at the Wadi Kharrar site.

The wadi has been identified by Jordanian archaeologists as the Biblical "Bethany Beyond the Jordan" where according to the gospels John carried out baptisms.

The archaeologists found the site in 1996 and began excavations the following year after the redeployment of Jordanian troops who had controlled it when it was a mine-infested no-go zone until a 1994 peace treaty with Israel.

Tourism Minister Maha Khatib said more than 20,000 people had travelled to Jordan since the pope arrived in the country on Friday on the first leg of his eight-day Holy Land tour.