Papal Holy Land Trip to Have Interreligious Focus

Unofficial Itinerary Reflects Attention to Jewish, Muslim Dialogue

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JERUSALEM, MARCH 4, 2009 ( Benedict XVI will be taking many steps to promote interreligious dialogue during his May trip to the Holy Land, according to an unofficial itinerary.

Jean-Marie Allafort from «Un Echo d’Israel,» a Christian newsletter in Israel, spoke with ZENIT about the Pope’s unofficial schedule for the May 11-15 trip, though he said that «neither the Vatican nor the State of Israel has published the official program,» and some items are still being discussed.

According to Allafort, the trip will include a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, and a welcome from both the Israeli and Palestinian Authority presidents.

Israeli President Shimon Peres is set to welcome the Holy Father on May 11, and together they will visit the Yad Vashem, according to the report. Later that evening, the Pontiff will attend an interreligious meeting before proceeding to the apostolic nunciature where he will reside during his stay,

On his second day in Israel, the Holy Father will meet with the mufti of Jerusalem and then go to the Wailing Wall to take part in a ceremony that will also be attended by the grand rabbis of Israel. Later that morning, he will visit the rabbinate of Israel.

At noon, the Holy Father will pray in the Cenacle, where Jesus held his Last Supper. And then he will visit the Latin patriarchate of Jerusalem to meet and lunch with the Catholic ordinaries of the Holy Land. That evening he will visit Gethsemane and celebrate a solemn Mass.

On May 13, the unofficial itinerary has Benedict XVI visiting Bethlehem, where he will be welcomed by the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and other Palestinian leaders. There he will visit the Basilica of the Nativity and celebrate Mass.

In the afternoon, he is set to visit a refugee camp near Bethlehem, as well as a work of charity, though this latter site has not been determined.

The program for Thursday, May 14, is still being considered, but the Holy Father is expected to celebrate Mass in the morning in Nazareth and meet with religious leaders of Galilee.

On his last day, the Bishop of Rome will visit the Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem in the patriarchate. Then he will go to the Holy Sepulcher where he will be received by the Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land, and where he will be spend time in prayer.

Later that morning, he will visit the Armenian neighborhood of the Old City of Jerusalem and meet with the Armenian Orthodox patriarch.

He is scheduled to leave Israel around 2 p.m. that afternoon.

[Anita S. Bourdin contributed to this report]
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