“The decision is logical. The Eastern side is where all the Byzantine antiquities and churches are located,” said Franciscan Father Eugenio Alliata, professor of Christian archaeology at Jerusalem’s Studium Biblicum Franciscanum. He said pilgrimages to the Western side began only about 600 years ago. “But for us it is the Jordan River, the middle, which is the most holy place.”
For years, Israel and Jordan have been at odds as to which side of the Jordan River is the actual site of Jesus’ baptism, as both sides vie for the title to increase tourism. Israel upgraded its shoreline with changing rooms and a wooden deck access to the murky waters.
But three popes have visited Jordan’s eastern shore as a sign of the Catholic Church’s official recognition of the site known as Bethany Beyond the Jordan. The Gospel of John (1:28 and 10:40) records this place as where John the Baptist carried out his baptisms, including that of Jesus. [More]