Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to the Holy Land will be brief, intense and secure, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, said at a Vatican press briefing Thursday morning.
The Vatican press spokesman shared with reporters details of the Pope’s itinerary and confirmed that in the afternoon of Sunday, May 25, the Holy Father will meet Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Bethlehem.
“It will be a private meeting, historically very important, in the same place where Paul VI met with Athenagoras,” Fr. Lombardi said. “There will be a joint statement there,” he added, and pointed out that this will be the first of four instances in which they will meet.
Another new element is that from there, after going to the Church of Holy Sepulcher, at 7:00 pm the same day, the Pope will be welcomed by the three superiors of the place used and looked after by three Christian communities: the Greek Orthodox, the Armenian and the Custody of the Holy Land.
After the addresses of the Orthodox Patriarch and the Holy Father, “an ecumenical rite take place with joint prayer, in which they will venerate the Holy Sepulcher.” This is “the great ecumenical novelty of the trip; it did not happen before because the communities venerate the Sepulcher at the times allocated to them,” Fr. Lombardi said. In other words, he added, it will be “an historic and extraordinary event.”
The director of the Holy See Press Office pointed out that “there was no moment of joint prayer between Paul VI and Athenagoras. It’s true that they prayed an Our Father, but not in a public celebration and broadcast live.”
“Vatican Radio will broadcast it live in six languages, and the commentaries will be made by a journalist of the Radio and an Orthodox commentator,” added Father Lombardi. The Pope will always speak in Italian.
There are no changes to the itinerary, made known by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. This will be second international trip of Pope Francis, after Brazil’s World Youth Day, and the first trip outside Italy that Francis has taken on his own initiative.
Fr. Lombardi recalled that the first invitation to the Holy Land was made by Patriarch Bartholomew to the Holy Father — to commemorate the historic meeting between Paul VI and Athenagoras — at the opening of this pontificate. Later it matured and took shape. Israeli President Shimon Peres also wanted it to take place before the end of his mandate.
Although Paul VI’s trip was the first international trip of a Pope, made in January during Vatican Council II, May was preferred this year as the climate is better.
Father Lombardi said that the cardinals who will accompany the Holy Father are the Argentine Leonardo Sandri of the Oriental Churches, the French Jean-Louis Tauran, of the Pontifical Council for interreligious Dialogue, and Cardinal Koch, of the Commissions of dialogue with Judaism.
They will be joined by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Custos of the Holy Land, and, the second novelty, Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Muslim Sheik Omar Abbud, with whom he has cultivated dialogue and friendship. “Abbud will join him in Amman, the Rabbi in Bethlehem and, although there won’t be specific inter-religious meetings, the whole trip will be so,” Fr. Lombardi said.
At the River Jordan, the place of Jesus’ Baptism, close to where several churches are being built, the King of Jordan will receive the Pope in one of them and they will go to the spot where it is believed the Baptism took place. The Holy Father will bless the Jordan River, as Paul VI did on his trip. Then he will go to a Latin church where he will meet refugees and disabled young people.
During his stay in Palestine, the Pope will go to Casa Nova, a Franciscan convent, where he will lunch with some refugee families. Then he will visit the Grotto of the Nativity and afterwards he will go to the Phoenix center in the refugee camp of Deheisheh, one of the three refugee camps of Palestine, the same one that Saint John Paul II visited. He will meet there with some 300 children.
This will bring to an end his stay in Palestine, from where he will go to the Tel Aviv airport. On Sunday afternoon the Holy Father will be with the Patriarch as explained earlier.
On Monday he will visit the “Grand Mufti” of Jerusalem in the Great Counsel building in the esplanade of the mosques. Then he will visit the Wailing Wall, welcomed by the Chief Rabbi. He will leave a note in a fissure of the wall. It could be a sealed envelope or a sheet of paper, this will be made known at the time, as happened with St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
Afterwards, the Pope will take a floral wreath to Mount Herzl, tomb of the founder of the Zionist Movement, in memory of the history of Israel’s victims.
Another significant moment of the day will take place in the church of Gethsemane, where he will meet with priests, men and women religious and seminarians. The Holy Father will plant an olive tree there, in the same place as Paul VI.
During the Pope’s visit he will also meet with young people and the disabled. Fr. Lombardi did not give a clear answer as to whether the Holy Father would answer questions on the flight back.
The full itinerary of the Pope’s visit is as follows:
Saturday, May 24, 2014
08:15 Departure from Rome Fiumicino Airport for Amman
13:00 Arrival at the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman
13:45 ARRIVAL CEREMONY in the al-Husseini Royal Palace in Amman
COURTESY VISIT TO THEIR MAJESTIES THE KING AND QUEEN OF JORDAN
14:20 MEETING WITH THE AUTHORITIES OF THE KINGDOM OF JORDAN. Discourse of the Holy Father
16:00 HOLY MASS at the International Stadium in Amman. Homily of the Holy Father
19:00 Visit to the Baptismal Site at Bethany beyond the Jordan
19:15 MEETING WITH REFUGEES AND DISABLED YOUNG PEOPLE in the Latin church at Bethany beyond the Jordan.
Discourse of the Holy Father
Sunday, May 25, 2014
8:15 FAREWELL FROM JORDAN at the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman
8:30 Departure by helicopter from the Queen Alia Internal Airport in Amman for Bethlehem
9:20 Arrival at the helicopter port of Bethlehem
9:30 ARRIVAL CEREMONY at the presidential Palace in Bethlehem
COURTESY VISIT TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE STATE OF PALESTINE
10:00 MEETING WITH THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY – Discourse of the Holy Father
11:00 HOLY MASS in Manger Square in Bethlehem. Homily of the Holy Father
REGINA COELI PRAYER. Allocution of the Holy Father
13:30 Lunch with families from Palestine in the Franciscan convent of Casa Nova in Bethlehem
15:00 PRIVATE VISIT TO THE GROTTO OF THE NATIVITY IN BETHLEHEM
15:20 GREETING OF CHILDREN FROM THE REFUGEE CAMPS OF DEHEISHEH, AIDA AND BEIT JIBRIN at the Phoenix
Center of the Deheisheh Refugee Camp
15:45 FAREWELL FROM THE STATE OF PALESTINE at the helicopter port of Bethlehem
16:00 Departure by helicopter from the helicopter port of Bethlehem for Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv
16:30 ARRIVAL CEREMONY at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. Discourse of the Holy Father
17:15 Transfer by helicopter to Jerusalem
17:45 Arrival at the helicopter port of Jerusalem on Mount Scopus
18:15 Private meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople at the Apostolic Delegation in Jerusalem. Signing of a joint declaration.
19.00 ECUMENICAL MEETING on the occasion of the 50 anniversary of the meeting in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher. Discourse of the Holy Father
20:15 Dinner with the Patriarchs and Bishops and the Papal suite at the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem
Monday, May 26, 2014
8:15 VISIT TO THE GRAND MUFTI OF JERUSALEM in the building of the Great Council on
the Esplanade of the Mosques. Discourse of the Holy Father
9:10 VISIT TO THE WESTERN WALL in Jerusalem
9:45 Laying a wreath at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem
10.00 VISIT TO YAD VASHEM in Jerusalem. Discourse of the Holy Father
10:45 COURTESY VISIT TO THE TWO CHIEF RABBIS at Heichal Shlomo Center in Jerusalem,
next to the Jerusalem Great Synagogue. Discourse of the Holy Father
11:45 COURTESY VISIT TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL at the Presidential
Residence in Jerusalem. Discourse of the Holy Father
13:00 PRIVATE AUDIENCE WITH THE PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL at Notre Dame Center
13:30 Lunch with the Papal suite at Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem
15:30 Private visit to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople at the building next to the
Orthodox church of Viri Galileai on the Mount of Olives
16:00 MEETING WITH PRIESTS, MEN AND WOMEN RELIGIOUS AND SEMINARIANS in the
church of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Discourse of the Holy Father
17:20 HOLY MASS WITH THE ORDINARIES OF THE HOLY LAND AND THE PAPAL SUITE in
the room of the Cenacle in Jerusalem. Homily of the Holy Father
19:30 Transfer by helicopter from the helicopter port on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem to Ben
Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv
20:00 FAREWELL FROM THE STATE OF ISRAEL at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel
20:15 Departure from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv for Ciampino Airport in
23:00 Arrival at Ciampino Airport in Rome
For more information, visit the official Holy Land visit website: