.- In an interview with CNA, Rustom Mkhjian, the assistant commission director at the site of Jesus' baptism, encouraged Christians to visit the site explaining that it “is of utmost importance for Christians because it is where Christianity started.”
The site, which is located in the country of Jordan, is one of two locations claiming to be the true place where Christ was baptized. Just across the narrow Jordan River, another site claims to be the location of Jesus' baptism, but Mkhijan's site has been visited by both John Paul II and Pope Benedict and also is supported by John 1:28, which says, “These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.”
Due to its importance to Christianity, the commission pours its efforts into maintaining the site because, according to Mkhijan, “it is where Christianity started through the baptism of Christ, that is when His ministry started and spread all over the world.”
He also encouraged Christians to visit and “enjoy the site as John and Jesus saw it.”
When Pope Benedict visited the site in May 2009 he was able to draw inspiration from the events that took place there. He reflected on the scene of Christ's baptism, saying, “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 also encouraged the faithful to prayerfully contemplate the mystery of Christ's baptism and to seek to promote “dialogue and understanding in civil society.”
The site is also home to the place where the Israelites entered the Promised Land and where Elijah was taken into heaven.
Last year over 150,000 pilgrims visited the location, a 53 percent increase from 2007.