Nuncio Presents Program for Pope's Israel Trip

Key Events Include 3 Public Masses

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JERUSALEM, MARCH 10, 2009 ( Today in Jerusalem the first press conference was held to officially present the schedule for Benedict XVI’s May 11-15 trip to the Holy Land.

Archbishop Antonio Franco, apostolic nuncio in Israel, highlighted that the most important moments of the trip will be three public Masses, one in Jerusalem, another in Bethlehem and the final one in Nazareth.

The Pope will spend May 11-12 in Jerusalem, the 13th he will go to Bethlehem and the 14th to Nazareth.

The Mass in Nazareth is expected to draw the largest crowd, given its coincidence with the conclusion of a Year of the Family. The Holy Father will bless a cornerstone for a new international center dedicated to support the family.

The Bishop of Rome will also have some key moments of prayer in the Holy Land: the first in the Upper Room and the last in the Holy Sepulcher.

Meetings with the Israeli and Palestinian Authority presidents are scheduled, as are meetings with Jewish and Muslim leaders in respective holy places of both creeds, and a visit to the Holocaust memorial, the Yad Vashem.

Archbishop Franco emphasized that the aim of the Pontiff’s trip is spiritual above all. He said that the Holy Father will pray and ask for the gift of peace and unity for the Holy Land, the Middle East and the whole world.

The nuncio affirmed that there has been full collaboration among Israeli and Palestinian authorities, and noted that the Israeli government has agreed to facilitate permissions for Bethlehem Christians to participate in the celebrations as well as two bus loads of people from Gaza.

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