After praying in silence at the site where Jesus is believed to have been baptized by John the Baptist, the Pope is scheduled to go to the nearby Latin Church that is still in construction, the foundations stones of which were blessed by Pope Benedict XVI during his journey in May 2009.
Here, in the sacristy, some 600 people will gather to listen to the Pope and to address him personally. Amongst them an Iraqi refugee who has been in Jordan for the past 23 years, and a Syrian refugee, a woman, with a tragic story of loss. Both of them are assisted by “Caritas Jordan” that has a long tradition of working on behalf of the poor and vulnerable.
It is currently offering short and long-term assistance to some 320,000 refugees of different provenance. Although Jordan hosts some 2 million refugees at this moment in history, only about 20% of them are in refugee camps, and Caritas is focussing its assistance on those who are not in organized refugee camps.
Wael Suleiman, Caritas Jordan General Director, spoke to Vatican Radio’s Philippa about the different areas Caritas Jordan is working in, about how his staff has been preparing for the Pope’s visit and about refugees who have been selected to address Pope Francis on Saturday evening.
Suleiman explains that since its establishment in 1967, Caritas Jordan has responded to several crises stemming from conflicts in the region through emergency support and several humanitarian aid programmes, such as providing emergency relief provisions to Iraqi refugees flooding the country during the two Gulf Wars in 1991 and 2003.
He says the organization contributes to the fight against poverty and helps to promote development in various sectors of Jordanian society: ranging from rendering medical services to mothers and children, poverty alleviation, HIV and AIDS awareness campaigns, humanitarian assistance, social development and assisting refugees and migrants.
Currently much energy is spent on the humanitarian emergency that stems from the Syrian conflict and Caritas Jordan provides assistance in the form of food, hygiene and detergents, blankets, heaters and medical supplies to the elderly, orphans, prisoners families, widows, homeless and individuals with disabilities.
Suleiman also tells the stories of the Iraqi man and Syrian woman who will address Pope Francis during the meeting. They have been chosen to represent the hundreds of thousands who have no voice.