Catholic Christians gather on the banks of the Jordan River to attend a baptism ceremony.
QASR AL-YAHUD, WEST BANK (JANUARY 13, 2013) (REUTERS) - Hundreds of Catholic Christians gathered on the banks of the Jordan River on Sunday (January 13) to celebrate and re-enact the Baptism of Jesus, in a ceremony officially concluding Christmas season.
"Here is where Jesus Christ was baptised so all the Christians who are in the Holy Lands come on this day to attend the mass at this site," Anton Boulus, a member of a marching band, told Reuters.
The Baptism feast was originally celebrated as part of the feast of Epiphany, but over time it became a separate event celebrated by the Western churches on the first Sunday after Epiphany (January 6). Eastern churches, however, still celebrate both events together.
The feast on Sunday was led by the Custodian of the Holy Land, Father Pier Battista Pizzaballa. The "Customs" or Custodian of the Holy Land is the Pope's envoy to theMiddle East. He is the major superior of the friars in the Palestinian territories, as well as in Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Cyprus and Rhodes.
Worshippers were not allowed this year to immersed themselves in the river because of the high level of water.
"That is right, we prevented the people going down to the water because there is a high level of water but we did not ban the celebration; on the contrary, we helped it to go ahead in this area," said Israeli officer Raem Falah, in charge of the security and coordination at the area.
According to Catholic Christian belief, those who are baptised are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God.