Fr. Francesco Patton, the head of the Custodia Terra Santa in Jerusalem, the Franciscan mission to the Holy Land, visited the churchyard of the Franciscan Chapel at the site of the Baptism of Christ today. The first clergyman to set foot inside the compound since 1967.
The HALO Trust began clearing landmines in the churchyard on 5th July 2018 and completed operations on 29th October 2018. The yard has laid untouched and unvisited for over 50 years, but today the Custos was able to walk in safety through a historic part of his church.
“For us it is an important day because this is the site of the Baptism of Jesus, to have this site cleared and safe of mines is very important in order to restore all the site and make it available to pilgrims,” said Fr. Francesco Patton
In an example of multi-faith collaboration, the site was cleared of dangerous explosive items by a team of Georgian, Palestinian and Israeli specialists. Our team gratefully received gifts from the Custos as a thank you for their hard work and for making the church yard safe again.
“I think it is a very important sign to have a site cleared of mines because minefield means field of war. Field is cleared from mines it becomes a field of peace.”
The Franciscan Churchyard is the third church compound to be completed at the Baptism Site, with four more yards to be cleared.
“I think that it is very important to support this kind of operation, particularly the HALO Trust who are conducting this operation to clear these places from mines," said the Custos. "Through the support of those who are financially helping, HALO Trust can continue to do this work which is very important because it is a work of peace.”