Olive tree, a witness to Jordan-Vatican friendship

تم نشره في Mon 12 May / May 2014. 02:02 PM

AMMAN (Petra) - An olive tree stands tall and green in the Vatican gardens at Castel Gandolfo, bearing witness to a deep-rooted and special relationship between Jordan and the Holy See, spanning many decades.

The sapling was a gift by His Majesty the late King Hussein to Pope Paul VI at the end of his landmark visit to Jordan and the Holy Land in 1964, the first by a pontiff to the Kingdom and outside Italy.

The holy tree has particular religious and historical relevance as the late monarch had ordered it to be brought from Mount Olive overlooking the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's walled Old City. The sacred tree had its roots watered in Jerusalem, then in Amman and now in the Vatican.

"One who sees the tree now would have the sense as if it's telling the story of approximately 50 years of friendship and cooperation and the bonds of love and exemplary ties between the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the Holy See," Director General of the Catholic Centre for Studies and Media, Father Rifat Bader, the official spokesman of Pope Francis' upcoming visit to Jordan, said in a statement to Petra.

Father Badr also gave Petra a recent photo of the olive tree with these words inscribed besides it in Italian: "From King Hussein Bin Talal to Pope Paul VI, January 6, 1964." During a visit to the Vatican on September 18, 1999, the same year he acceded to the throne, His Majesty King Abdullah II, accompanied by Her Majesty Queen Rania and a delegation of ministers and other top Jordanian figures, met Pope John Paul II.

After the meeting, the party headed to the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo, the Pope's summer residence, where they stood as a mark of respect next to the blessed olive tree (the Tree of King Hussein).

Before Pope John Paul II's arrival in Jordan during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land on March 20, 2000, an olive tree was planted besides the Byzantine chapel at Mount Nebo, one of the most important Christian sites in the Kingdom. The pontiff watered the tree, with a sign reading in Latin, "The olive tree is a symbol of peace. Watered by Pope John Paul II at this mountain on March 20, 2000." The tree stands with its long branches and fresh and green leaves that sway with the breeze ascending from the west from the Jordan River, where Jesus Christ was baptized (the Baptism Site).

Currently, Jordan and the Vatican are preparing for Pope Francis visit on May 24, when the head of the Catholic world will be welcomed by His Majesty King Abdullah, in a historic visit marking 20 years of diplomatic ties between Jordan and the Holy See.

As the Kingdom waits for the papal visit, it is hoped that His Holiness will plant a tree on the eastern bank of the Jordan River to be watered from the sacred river.