Early morning, Sunday 23rd August. (by JA)
It was a special day for all of us taking part in this year's archaeological campaign on Mount Nebo in Jordan. We left Mount Nebo down the winding road that leads directly to the Jordan Valley. We passed by the green valley of 'Ain Kaniseh and arrived at Kufrein, the village at a crossroad. We came down from 800 m above sea level to about 300 m below sea level. There some twenty cars were waiting for us, amongst them the Italian Ambassador for Jordan and his wife. In a white car Chiara was held in her mother's arm. A carcade followed Fr. Michele Piccirillo's car through the fertile fields of the Jordan Valley towards the West. At a certain point we were joined by some Jordanian soldiers who led us towards the Jordan. Within a few minutes, following a newly formed winding track (which will become the main road leading to the site) we arrived at an open space overlooking a densly green area along the banks of the river. Complete silence with the heath, even at this early hour, and humidity taking he toll from all those present. On the west bank a chapel dominated the horizon and a coss rose high above the green canes among the remains of the concrete structures left abandoned after the six day war of 1967. Yellow tags with the deadly writing "mines" could be clearly seen sealing off the west bank of the river where once a year, on the last day of October, the Christians, led by the Franciscans, are allowed to visit by the Isreali army. The brownish water of the river moved slowly towards the Dead Sea and all the gathering were now ready to start the baptism of Chiara. We heard Fr. Piccirillo explain the history of the site especially the fact that this was the site, "beyond the Jordan" where John the Baptist baptised the Lord as is witnessed by the pilgrims of the early church who visited the place. Fr. Piccirillo led the congregation in prayer while the "archaeologists' choir" led them in praising the Lord with hymns. Baby Chiara was in her mother's arms unaware that she was the centre of attracton at the moment. Prayers, readings from the bible and part of the baptisimal rite were held on a natural platform above the eastern bank of the river. Then the moment came when Chiara was taken down to the river bank. While water was poured on her head she burst out crying while the priest proclaimed: "Chiara, I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit".