Papal Agency, Jordan Tourism Board Launch Joint Effort to Take Catholic Journalists to Jordan

Historic Partnership Highlights History of Inter-Faith Cooperation, Centuries of Christianity in Region and Continued Work of Church in Jordan

MINNEAPOLIS, May 30 – A Vatican agency and the Jordan Tourism Board (JTB) have announced a joint effort to bring Catholic journalists to Jordan to help the more than 75 million Catholics in North America to get a better understanding of a portion of the Holy Land that is stable and peaceful; to discover some of the country’s 200 authenticated biblical sites and shrines; and to learn more about the ongoing work of the church in the region.

Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) is happy to announce this joint endeavor with the Jordan Tourism Board to provide an opportunity for journalists of the Catholic Press Association (CPA) to visit the holy sites in Jordan–a land of peace, a land of inter-religious cooperation, a land sanctified by Christ, by the blood of his disciples and martyrs, and a land where the church is at work,” said Michael La Civita, communications director of CNEWA.

CNEWA is a papal agency serving the churches and peoples of the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe. In Jordan, the agency runs many programs that help refugees and poor communities, such as the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa and the CNEWA Needy Child program in Gaza Camp, Jerash. JTB is a non-profit public/private sector partnership that promotes tourism to Jordan. The announcement was made during this week’s annual convention of the Catholic Press Association (CPA) in Minneapolis.

“The part of the Holy Land that is now Jordan was known throughout the Bible as a place of refuge and peace,”Priscilla Philippi, JTB spokesperson, told the CPA audience gathered during Wednesday’s opening banquet of the convention. “Jordan has been blessed with leaders who have worked hard towards fostering an environment of peace, inter-faith and ecumenical understanding and tolerance. His Majesty King Abdullah II, a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammad, continues the family tradition of furthering these noble works.

“As editors and writers of the Catholic Press Association, you serve a higher purpose – your unique position compels you to seek and spread the truth,”Philippi continued. “I urge you to visit Jordan to experience the reality on the ground. You have the power to bring about a broader knowledge and understanding of current affairs and bridge the information gap necessary for the enrichment of future generations.”

Owen McGovern, executive director of CPA, says Jordan plays a pivotal role in the region. “Jordan is like the Switzerland of the Middle East,“ McGovern said. “As a land of peace and moderation, it is a beacon of hope for stability in the region.”

The Jordan Tourism Board launched a major campaign last year designed to inform North American Christians about the holy places in Jordan. With sites of major importance to the Christian faith, such as Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan, where Jesus was baptized, the land in what is today the country of Jordan played a prominent role throughout the Old and New Testaments and the early Christian period.

The JTB-CNEWA trip for CPA journalists will take place Sept. 24–Oct. 2, 2002. The itinerary will feature biblical sites, visits to CNEWA projects and opportunities for inter-faith dialogue. Highlights include:

Holy Sites

  • Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan, where John the Baptist lived, preached and baptized Jesus and where Elijah ascended to heaven from what is now known as Elijah’;s hill.*
  • Mount Nebo, where Moses stood to glimpse the Holy Land that he would never enter. The site is cared for by an order of Franciscan Monks.*
  • Petra, the Ancient Nabatean fortress city carved out of rock, near the Valley of Moses and located off the ancient King’s Highway.
  • Jerash, one of the cities of the Decapolis, where Jesus preached to thousands and one of the best preserved Greco-Roman cities in the world.
  • Gadara, or Um Qais, where Jesus cast out the unclean spirits that fled and entered into a herd of swine, which then ran in to the Sea of Galilee and drowned.
  • Madaba, the “City of Mosaics“ that is home to the oldest Byzantine mosaic map of the Holy Land.
  • Aqaba, site of a church believed to be the oldest in the world.
  • Amman Archaeological Museum, which houses some of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other priceless pieces of history.
  • Elijah’s home region of Tishbeh in ancient Gilead: the ancient tumbled village remains on a low hill at Listib, and the nearby mountaintop remains of a large, 7th Century Byzantine church, known as Khirbet Mar Elias (Khirbet el-Wahadneh).*
  • The modern Shrine to Our Lady of the Mountain at Anjara.*

* Designated by the Catholic Bishops of the Middle East as the five pilgrimage sites in Jordan set for the year 2000.

CNEWA Projects

  • Mother of Mercy Clinic, Zerqa
  • Italian Hospital, Amman
  • CNEWA Needy Child program, Gaza Camp, Jerash


  • Father Michele Piccirillo, Franciscan Bible Institute, Jerusalem
  • Rami Khouri, former editor-in-chief of the Jordan Times, author and writer/presenter of “Jordan Ancient Cultures,“ a weekly archaeology program on Radio Jordan
  • Latin Patriarchal Vicar, Bishop Selim Sayegh
  • Greek Orthodox Bishop Benedictos
  • Greek Melkite Catholic Bishop George al-Murr
  • Father Charles Miller, Rector of Ratisbonne Pontifical Institute, Jerusalem
  • USAID officials
  • Other leading secular authorities, subject to availability

For information contact:

  • Christine Moore: (972) 267-1111/(469) 688-5683E-mail: or
  • Michael La Civita: (800) 442-6392, ext. 600E-mail:

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