“God keeps his promises,” Franciscan Father Fergus Clarke assured a group of Catholic reporters gathered for Mass in October at the friar’s small chapel atop Mount Nebo in Jordan—the very place a testament to his statement.
It was on Mount Nebo that Moses finally gazed upon the Promised Land. He died and was buried in the vicinity, according to Deuteronomy, but the exact place of his tomb is unknown.
Centuries later, according to 2 Maccabees, just before the Babylonian invasion of Israel, Jeremiah hid the Ark of the Covenant (the chest containing the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written) at Mount Nebo in a cave and sealed the entrance. The location of the lost Ark is, of course, a matter of great conjecture.
As part of the Franciscans' traditional ministry of caring for Christian sites in the Holy Land, the Franciscans maintain the Memorial of Moses on Mount Nebo. “By our very presence here, we proclaim that Jesus lives,” Father Clarke said.
The Ireland-born priest, formerly the guardian of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher (the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection), and two other friars reside on Mount Nebo and are overseeing the renovation of the remains of a Byzantine church at the summit.
The building has been closed to the public since 2007, although reporters were given a preview, as workers restore its stunning, sprawling mosaic floor, including one piece, in what was a shrine to the Blessed Virgin, that is an image of the Tabernacle in the Temple in Jerusalem.
The 4th-century church was discovered in 1933; it had been abandoned for more than 1,000 years. Several tombs have been found beneath the church, including one in the center of the cruciform.
Father Clarke said he hopes the building will reopen by early next year.