December 21, 2014
Back in Vatican, Francis prays, gives thanks for Holy Land trip
Accompanied by his driver, Pope Francis made a private visit to the Rome Basilica of Saint Mary Major to pray and give thank for his recent trip to Holy Land, an intense journey filled with bold personal gestures that took him to Jordan, Palestine and Israel.
The Pope’s historic 3-day tour, described as “a ray of hope” by Israeli press, was seen as more as a merely religious trip, and ended with an unprecedented invitation to Middle East leaders for peace prayers in Rome.
The hectic trip also included an on-board press conference on the plane back to the Vatican, where Francis spoke openly about celibacy, sexual abuses and papal retirement, among other subjects.
THE POPE’S AGENDA
On the plane, Pope Francis announced he will have his first meeting with a group of sex abuse victims at the Vatican early next month and said he would show zero tolerance for anyone in the Catholic Church who abused children, including bishops.
“Sexual abuse is such an ugly crime ... because a priest who does this betrays the body of the Lord. It is like a satanic Mass," he said in some of the toughest language he has used on a crisis that has rocked the Church for more than a decade.
He also confirmed a trip to Asia for January, that will take him to Sri Lanka and the Philipines. It will be his fourth international trip, after a visit to South Korea scheduled for August.