Pope

The pope has officially announced travel dates for his first visit to Israel this spring.

Upon appointment as pontiff last April, Pope Francis I assured Israeli President Shimon Peres he would travel to the Jewish state in early 2014. Now he has set May 24 as his date of arrival.

Francis will spend three days in Israel, and will also travel to Jordan and the West Bank, it was announced yesterday.

“In the climate of joy, typical of this Christmas season, I wish to announce that from 24 to 26 May next, God willing, I will make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land,” the pope said after mass.

The trip will take place 50 years after a historic visit from Paul VI, who was the first sitting pope to travel to the Jewish state. Francis said his trip will “commemorate the meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras.”

He added that the visit will include “an ecumenical meeting held at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with the representatives of all the Christian Churches of Jerusalem, together with Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople…As of now I ask you to pray for this pilgrimage.”

“We are hoping for a new glimmer of light from this visit in relations with the Orthodox, with Muslims and Jews,” added Monsignor William Shomali, auxiliary bishop in Jerusalem, to the Vatican Radio.

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