UNESCO recognises site of Jesus’ baptism at Bethany

Bethany Beyond the Jordan, on the eastern side of the river Jordan, has been recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage site and the location of Jesus’ baptism.

Pope St John Paul II first visited the spot in 2000, with Pope Benedict XVI following him in 2009 and Pope Francis doing so last year.

The decision to recognise the eastern Jordanian shore, rather than the western Israeli one, is logical, according to Fr Eugenio Alliata, professor of Christian archaeology at Jerusalem’s Studium Biblicum Franciscanum. Pilgrimages to the western side began only 600 years ago, he said, but “the Eastern side is where all the Byzantine antiquities and churches are located”.

More than 20 Christian sites from the Roman and Byzantine period have been discovered near the site.