Pope hopes to keep focus of three-day trip on better relations with Jews, Orthodox and Muslims
Asking prayers for his upcoming trip to the Holy Land, Pope Francis has said his visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories would be “strictly religious.”
At the end of his weekly general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis told an estimated 50,000 people in St Peter’s Square that he was about to make the trip.
The first reason for going, he said, “is to meet my brother, Bartholomew,” the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople, to mark the 50th anniversary of the meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople. The meeting launched a new era of ecumenical cooperation and dialogue.
“Peter and Andrew will meet once again, and this is very beautiful,” the pope said. Pope Francis is considered the successor of the apostle Peter and Patriarch Bartholomew the successor of his brother, the apostle Andrew.
The pope said the second reason for his trip is “to pray for peace in that land that suffers so much”. He asked the people in the square to pray for the success of the trip.
Pope Francis is scheduled to leave the Vatican early May 24 and fly to Amman, Jordan, for a full day of meetings, a public Mass and an encounter with refugees and people with disabilities.
The next morning he is to fly to Bethlehem for a meeting with Palestinian leaders, a Mass and a meeting at a Palestinian refugee camp. The evening of May 25, he plans to go to Jerusalem to meet Patriarch Bartholomew.
The last day of the trip, May 26, the pope will meet with Muslim, Jewish and Israeli authorities in Jerusalem, pray at the Western Wall and visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, then meet again with Patriarch Bartholomew and with Catholic groups.