.- Two new church cornerstones were blessed by Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday evening at the place where the Bible says Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.
At around 5 p.m. on Sunday, after having celebrated a two and a half hour Mass earlier in the day, Pope Benedict traveled to the site where Jesus was baptized, accompanied by Jordan's King Abdullah II and his wife Queen Rania.
Just across the narrow Jordan River, another site claims to be the location of Jesus' baptism. But Pope Benedict visited the Jordanian site and blessed cornerstones for two new Catholic churches—one Latin Rite and the other Greek Melkite.
In a speech prior to the blessing ceremony, the Holy Father explained the symbolism of the cornerstones, saying, “The foundation stone of a church is a symbol of Christ. The Church rests on Christ, is sustained by him and cannot be separated from him.”
Benedict XVI also reflected on the Jesus' baptism, which he described as being “brought vividly before us in this place.”
“Jesus stood in line with sinners and accepted John’s baptism of penance as a prophetic sign of his own passion, death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins,” the Pope said.
“Down through the centuries, many pilgrims have come to the Jordan to seek purification, renew their faith and draw closer to the Lord. Such was the pilgrim Egeria, who left a written account of her visit during the late fourth century.
He then pointed out that “the Sacrament of Baptism, drawing its power from Christ’s death and resurrection, will be cherished especially by the Christian communities that gather in the new church buildings. May the Jordan always remind you that you have been washed in the waters of baptism and have become members of the family of Jesus.”
The Pope encouraged the faithful to prayerfully contemplate the mystery of Christ's baptism and to promote “dialogue and understanding in civil society, especially when claiming your legitimate rights.”
The Middle East, which he depicted as “marked by tragic suffering, by years of violence and unresolved tensions,” needs Christians “to offer their contribution, inspired by the example of Jesus, of reconciliation and peace through forgiveness and generosity,” the Pope said.
Benedict XVI finished by praying that God “sustain, strengthen and increase” the two new Catholic communities.