Site Of Moses' Death Reopens After 10 Year Restoration

The spot where Moses is supposed to have died after seeing the Holy Land has been reopened after nearly ten years of closure.

The Memorial Sanctuary of Moses on Mount Nebo is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Jordan and has opened its doors after extensive renovation work. The church and monastery are perched on a 3,300 foot mountain 20 miles southwest of Amman and offer views of the West Bank, Jericho and Jerusalem.

Pope Benedict XVI prayed at the memorial in 2009. It has now been reopened for pilgrimages.Reuters

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, special envoy for Pope Francis and prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, said he was thrilled to officiate.

"The spiritual treasures that this place holds today are returned to Jordan and to humanity," he told the 500-strong gathering of religious leaders, Jordanian politicians and diplomats.

"With this gesture, the Holy Father, to whom we turn our grateful thoughts, intends to pay tribute to the importance of this symbolic place, which serves as a crossroads of dialogue and encounter for the three great monotheistic religions, all of which were born in this beloved Middle East," he said.

"The figure of Moses, as a prophet, friend of God and giver of the law, is indeed held in high esteem by our Jewish, Christian and Muslim brothers."

Sandri thanked those who had worked on the memorial, noting it was in a time where "treasures of religious history from the region are being looted or destroyed".

He also paid tribute to the role Jordan has played in protecting refugees as well its sites of religious significance. "The Kingdom of Jordan, which, extending its boundaries nearly to this mountain, has become in recent years a place of welcome, hospitality and healing for thousands of refugees and exiles from the suffering lands of Palestine, Syria and Iraq," he said.

"We must set out toward a newfound freedom, in a concrete and fraternal solidarity with our neighbours, whoever they may be, especially the poor and suffering. This process demands a profound faith in God, who can never be invoked to cause terror and violence."

Mount Nebo is now an active Franciscan monastery after monks took charge of the ruins left by archaeologists in the 1930s. It has been a popular site for pilgrimages and St John Paul II visited in March 2000 on his journey to the Holy Land. Pope Benedict XVI gave a speech there in 2009.

The restoration began in 2007 after the remains of an early church basilica were found to be crumbling and unfit to house the memorial.