CMEP Bulletin: Pope Francis Headed to Holy Land
Weekly news digest from Churches for Middle East Peace
Pope Francis is set to embark on a three-day trip to the Holy Land this weekend, and despite insisting that it is “purely a religious trip,” it will be loaded with political significance.
The Pontiff will be flying first from Amman to Bethlehem, which many see as a symbolic recognition of Palestinian sovereignty. Vatican spokesman Father Lombardi said Pope Francis was starting his trip in Jordan partly because Saturday is the Sabbath and that a mass in Manger Square was fitting for Sunday. In a more clear political statement, the itinerary refers to “The State of Palestine,” an acknowledgement of the 2012 UN General Assembly resolution upgrading the Palestinian’s UN status.
In Bethlehem, Pope Francis will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and hold mass in Manger Square. After mass, according to The New York Times, “The pope is scheduled to have lunch with several Palestinian families: one from a destroyed village, another whose land was confiscated, a third split between Bethlehem and Jerusalem because of travel restrictions, and a teenager who lacks any identification card.” He will also visit with children in the Deheisheh refugee camp.
While his time in Bethlehem will be short, one Palestinian lawmaker noted, “Frankly, even if he comes just for seconds and leaves, it’s important. It’s an S.M.S. message for the whole world.”