(ATS) Pope Francis will shortly arrive in the Holy Land, becoming a pilgrim in order to commemorate the historical trip made by Pope Paul VI in 1964, when he gave a historical hug to the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras. The Holy Father will be in Amman, Jordan, on the 24th May, in Bethlehem on the 25th May and in Jerusalem on the 26th May.
The Pontiff has explained that this will essentially be a “pilgrimage of prayer”, and among the highlights of his pilgrimage there will be a visit to the Baptism Site of Jesus Christ, in Bethany, beyond River Jordan, the celebration of the Sunday Mass in Manger Square, in Bethlehem, opposite the Church of the Nativity, after which he will make a stop to have lunch with a group of Palestinian families in the nearby Casa Nova, the hospitality premises by the Franciscan of the Custody of the Holy Land. Later on, in Jerusalem, Pope Francis will visit Gethsemane and the Holy Sepulchre, where an ecumenical meeting will take place, with chiefs of the different Churches and local Christian communities taking part.
After the institutional meetings, the day will end with a mass that will be celebrated with the ordinaries of the Holy Land in the Cenacle room, as John Paul II did during his pilgrimage to mark the Jubilee in 2000.
Following in the footsteps of St. Francis:
The Holy Father will also be following the steps of Saint Francis, who, at the beginning of the 13th Century left Assisi in order to visit the Holy Places. The friars are not hiding their hope that this voyage will provide an opportunity to focus attention on these lands and on the historical-artistic-religious testimonies that are preserved in Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives, as well as in Bethlehem, in Nazareth, in Capernaum, on Mount Nebo and in many other places.
Many of these places and sanctuaries are open sites that require continual restoration and maintenance works.The West should return to providing support, as it did in previous centuries, to the places that the Pope will be visiting in just a few weeks, where Christianity was born.
Even if it’s a quick visit, it will certainly have a big future impact for the universal Church and will show the stories of those who have the task of safeguarding these places and communities. This is the reason why all the Catholics in the Holy Land have been making preparations to welcome the Pope, and the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land is also awaiting with joy the arrival of Pope Francis.