The official program for Pope Francis’ visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories scheduled for May 24-26 will include an intensive series of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, as well as Jewish, Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim religious leaders, the Vatican said this week.
(Milan/k.c.) – The official program for Pope Francis’ visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories scheduled for May 24-26 will include an intensive series of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, as well as Jewish, Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim religious leaders, the Vatican said this week.
Pope Francis will celebrate religious services, make public speeches and seek to “spread and promote love, cooperation and peace among all inhabitants," the Catholic Church in the Holy Land said last January.
The pontiff will take off from early in the morning from Rome, May 24 at 8:15 for Amman, the capital of Jordan, to begin his fast-paced tour.
The flight is scheduled to arrive at its destination 1pm local time and from there Francis will be whisked away for his official welcome meeting with King Abdullah II and Queen Rania, where he will also address Jordanian authorities.
Shortly after, at 4pm local time, Francis will celebrate Mass in the country’s largest arena, Amman International Stadium. Later, at 7pm, Francis will meet with “refugees and young disabled people” at the Baptismal Site of Jesus (at Bethany beyond the Jordan), the Vatican said.
On Sunday, the Pope will leave Jordan’s Queen Alia airport and fly 75 kilometers by helicopter directly to Bethlehem where he will meet with Palestinian State President Mahmoud Abbas. Francis will address Palestinian authorities and celebrate Mass in Manger Square.
To close the Holy Mass in Manger Square, Francis will recite the Regina Caeli or the Queen of Heaven, an ancient Latin Hymn dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Francis will then share a lunch with families from Palestine in the Franciscan convent of Casa Nova in Bethlehem and then retire for “private time” in the Church of the Nativity, possibly the oldest existing church in the world and a site that is located over the cave that marks the birthplace of Jesus.
In keeping with his signature humanitarian approach, Francis will meet with children from three West Bank refugee camps — Dheisheh, Aida and Beit Jibrin. During a highly symbolic visit to Italy's island of Lampedusa last July, his first official trip outside of the Italian mainland as pontiff, he called for understanding and solidarity for refugees around the world and has been a powerful voice in promoting assistance for displaced persons.
On leaving the Palestinian Territories by helicopter at 3:45pm, Francis will then fly by helicopter to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport for the official welcoming in Israel, before taking off again for Jerusalem for a long-anticipated meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.
When Francis announced his trip to the Holy Land in December, he explained that one of the prime aims of the trip is to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the meeting in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras.
Since 1054 a split termed the Great Schism, principally precipitated by disagreements over the primacy of the Pope, has divided Catholics and Orthodox.
Bartholomew, who became the first ecumenical leader to attend a papal inauguration since the Schism, will join Francis in Jerusalem. The 74-year old leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church travelled to Rome for Francis' inaugural Mass in March 2013. The two religious leaders will meet privately at the Apostolic Delegation in Jerusalem, and sign a joint declaration. At 7pm they are to pay a visit to the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. An ecumenical meeting will take place and the heads of local Churches will attend, too. At 8.15 dinner with the patriarchs and bishops and the papal suite at the Latin Patriarchate.
On the last day of the pope’s trip, May 26, Francis will visit the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, Palestinians' leading religious figure, at the Great Council on the Esplanade of the Mosques
Then he will visit the Western Wall, arguably the most sacred Jewish site, and lay a wreath at Mount Herzl or Mount of Remembrance, the site of Israel's national cemetery and Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem.
Francis will also visit and speak at Yad Vashem before meeting Israel’s two chief rabbis, Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau, at the Heichal Shlomo Centre next to the Great Synagogue of Jerusalem. He will then meet Polish-born Israeli President Shimon Peres at the presidential palace before his 1pm appointment with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Notre Dame Center.
The rest of the afternoon is stacked with ecclesial events: at 3:30pm the pontiff will meet privately with Patriarch Bartholomew in his residence on the Mount of Olives, then at 4pm will speak with priests, seminarians and religious men and women in the nearby church of Agony, at Gethsemane.
To end his stay, Francis will celebrate Mass at the Cenacle (the site of Jesus' Last Supper) together with the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, as John Paul II did in 2000.
From there, Francis will end his trip, leaving Tel Aviv for Rome at 8:15pm and ending a tour that many hope will solidify the bonds already strengthening between the Catholic and Orthodox communities.
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