Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Monday 01 March |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Giovanna Maria Bonomo
home iconArt & Culture
line break icon

Mass to resume at West Bank church after clearing of landmine field

Franciscan Chapel of St. John The Baptist at Qasr al-Yahud

MENAHEM KAHANA | AFP

J-P Mauro - published on 01/08/21

The chapel was abandoned over 50 years ago. Now its Franciscan caretakers have returned.

St. John the Baptist Chapel, on the West Bank, has announced that it will reopen for Mass in January 2021. For over 50 years, the site has been unapproachable because it was scattered with landmines. Now, after clearing the field, this historic site will begin to welcome tourists and pilgrims once more. The first Mass will be fittingly on the Feast of St. John the Baptist. 

According to Crux Now, the site was the location of an altercation between Israel and several Arab countries in 1967. Known as the Six-Day War, the final decision of the conflict placed custodianship of the land in the hands of Israel, but both sides had buried landmines in the area. The site would see several more conflicts throughout the 1960s and 1970s, but even once the fighting had stopped, the area was fenced off for fear of the minefield. 

A long, dangerous process

Removal of the landmines was a slow process, which began with the signing of an international removal agreement in 1999. Jordan was the first country to complete landmine clearance. Israel’s landmine removal efforts on the West Bank began in 2016, and one of the first sites cleared was Qasr-al-Yahud, a spot along the Jordan River that some Christians believe is the site of John’s baptism of Jesus.

Other Church properties, including monasteries and St. John the Baptist Chapel, have remained off limits during the 5-year process. Now that the field is clear, the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, the previous caretakers of the chapel, have been able to retake possession of the property.

Franciscan Father Ibrahim Faltas, chancellor of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land announced that the first Mass will resume on January 10, 2021. He said:

“It will be a very special day. After all this time, we have come back. This gives us hope for peace. For us, this is a sign not to lose hope, not to lose hope for peace.”

Preserving history

The report goes on to note that the building, which has been untouched since it was abandoned in 1967, will not be repaired. The walls, pock marked with bullet holes, will stand as a testament to the endurance of the Church and the battles that ensued on the land. They do, however, plan to rejuvenate the garden areas in order to beautify the property.

Leonardo DiMarco, a civil engineer and the director of the technical office of the Custody, commented:

“This is the past history of the place, you can’t cancel those things. The door is full of bullet holes, the inside wooden doors. This will be part of the experience of the pilgrims. The place itself is telling something important,” said DiMarco. “It is important; this is a religious place, but not only. It is also a place which was in the middle of a fight.”

Learn more about the details of the beautification plans, as well as the history of St. John the Baptist Chapel, at Crux Now.


QASR EL YAHUD; JESUS BAPTISM SITE

Read more:
Jesus’ baptismal site cleared of landmines

Tags:
HistoryIsrael
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
PADRE PIO
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio’s favorite prayer of petition
2
MADONNA
V. M. Traverso
The 9 oldest images of Mary
3
Jacques Fesch
Brother Silas Henderson, SDS
Meet the Death Row prisoner who discovered a ...
4
SEARCHNG PURSE
Cerith Gardiner
12 Things every Catholic woman should have in her purse
5
LUXOR FILM FESTIVAL
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful 1-minute film about...
6
CELEBRITY MARRIAGES
Cerith Gardiner
10 Celebrities whose marriages have stood the test of time
7
RECONSTRUCTED CHRIST
Lucandrea Massaro
This 3D “carbon copy” of Jesus was created using the ...
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.