(CNS) — Pope Francis’ “pilgrimage of prayer” is a revival of hope for the people of Bethlehem, said Bethlehem Mayor Vera Baboun.
“The pope’s coming here represents peace and hope and love,” said Baboun, a Catholic and the first female mayor of Bethlehem. “In a situation of discrimination and hardship, this represents hope for us. Bethlehem needs a revival, not in faith, but a revival of hope. We are in desperate need for anyone who can make peace to do so,” she said. “We hope the pope will be able to mobilize the peace process and the process of the justice we really need.”
During his three-day visit to the Holy Land May 24-26, the only public papal Mass will be in Bethlehem May 25, and Baboun said she is well aware of the responsibility that gives the city.
The city, which has already played host to three previous popes in modern times, expects to welcome 7,000-8,000 worshipers from all over, and hotels are already reporting they are overbooked. Blessed John Paul II came on a six-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land in March 2000, and Pope Benedict XVI spent a similar amount of time during his visit in May 2009.
Unlike his predecessors, Pope Francis, who has called his visit a “pilgrimage of prayer” will not be traveling to Galilee.
(Modified from original.)