Thursday, May 7, 2009
BETHANY BEYOND THE JORDAN (Reuters) - When Pope Benedict stops to pray at a pool of still green water here on Sunday, his visit will bolster the case that Jesus was baptized at this spot on the east bank of the Jordan River.
The exact location is unclear and a rival spot across the narrow muddy river has long claimed to be the place where John the Baptist and Jesus met for the cleansing ritual.
But for over a decade now, Jordanian experts have unearthed ruins of ancient churches amid the tamarisk trees here and found early pilgrims' writings about the site. Christian denominations have begun building new churches for modern pilgrims nearby.
Rustom Mkhjian, assistant director of the Baptism Site Commission developing the area, said the archaeological evidence showed early Christians saw this as the true site.