December 17, 2014
Pope Francis to make first trip to the Middle East
On Saturday, Pope Francis will arrive for the first time in the Middle East, together with a Rabbi and a Muslim leader, in a delicate mission to push his vision of inter-religious dialogue as a vehicle for peace in the region.
The three-day trip to Jordan, the Palestinian Territories and Israel will be the fourth visit of a Pontiff to Holy Land.
Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Omar Abboud, director of the Institute for Religious Dialogue in Buenos Aires, are friends of Francis from when he was cardinal in Argentina and will accompany the Pope through the trip.
The Pope will first arrive in Jordan, where he will visit the site of Jesus' baptism and meet with Syrian and Iraqi refugees. He will then lead a holy mass at Manger Square and have lunch with several Christian families from the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Israel's Galilee.
Francis will then travel to Israel, arriving in Tel Aviv at 4.30 pm on Sunday. He will be immediately transferred to Jerusalem, where he will participate in an ecumenical gathering honoring the 50° anniversary of the meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Atenágoras in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
On Monday, the high pontiff will have a busy schedule, including a visit to the Grand Mufti, the western wall, Mount Herzl, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue, meetings with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and a mass with the Ordinary Catholics of Holy Land.