Sinaihalvøya og Katarinaklosteret

VATICAN CITY, FEB 26, 2000 (VIS) - This morning Pope John Paul II visited the Sinai Peninsula and St. Catherine's Monastery, thus completing the final phase and focal point of his first Jubilee Year pilgrimage.

The Sinai Peninsula, 61,000 square kilometers, constitutes the Asian part of Egypt. It is bordered by the Mediterranean on the north, the Red Sea on the south, the Suez Canal, inaugurated in 1869, on the west and the Gulf of Aqaba on the east. The peninsula consists of sandy plains and flat beaches in the north and arid plateaus in the center. The southern edge consists of crystalline blocks which form the Sinai Massif where Mount St. Catherine is located, which, at 2,641 meters, is the highest point in Egypt.

The monastery of St. Catherine is an Orthodox Church, autonomous in its government but not autocephalous. The abbot is elected by the community of monks, currently numbering 23, and is consecrated by the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem with the title of archbishop of the Sinai, Paran and Raitho.

This is the site of the Biblical "burning bush" where Moses received the Ten Commandments from the Lord. Roots of this bush, as well as relics of St. Catherine, can be found inside the monastery.

Hermits originally occupied this site. Byzantine Emperor Justinian I built a monastery there in 527 and dedicated the basilica to Mary, whose virginity the burning bush symbolized. In the seventh century, with the arrival of Islamic conquerors, the monastery was spared, on the condition that a small mosque be constructed within the walls. Still today mountain bedouins, who venerate Moses and are the traditional guardians of the monastery, pray there.

St. Catherine's monastery has been known by the name of this martyr of Alexandria since the ninth century. Originally under the jurisdiction of Jerusalem, it became independent in 1575.

Vatican Information Service

av Webmaster publisert 05.03.2000, sist endret 05.03.2000 - 12:26