27 March 2014

The pope in the Holy Land : the official programme released

The official program of the visit of Pope Francis to the Holy Land has been announced. At the center of the visit, the ecumenical prayer and a meeting with the poor.

Actuality and events

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The ecumenical prayer at the Holy Sepulchre, in the evening of Sunday, May 25th, will be the centerpiece of the visit of Pope Francis to the Holy Land, which is due to take place from May 24th to 26th.
On Thursday March 27, the official program of the trip was announced simultaneously in the Vatican and in Jerusalem, a little less than two months ahead of the arrival of Pope Francis in the land of Jesus. In Jerusalem, it was the Latin Patriarch who outlined the main steps of the visit announced by Francis himself on January 5th, the visit whose details have now been disclosed.
It is a journey conceived with the aim of celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the pilgrimage of Paul VI in January 1964, but one which will inevitably have pastoral implications for the Holy Land and the Christians who live here.

Patriarca latino di Gerusalemme
"The Holy Father, with his humility and with his simplicity, with his way of talking to people, will have a pastoral and spiritual impact on souls. We must not only think about politics. It is good, in a violent and arrogant world, to hear a friendly and loving voice calling us to the spirit of the Gospel. In Bethlehem, in front of the cave, there will be a call to return to the simplicity of the Faith and an invitation to the world to return to this. "

They will be three very intense days for the Holy Father: On Saturday, May 24, he arrives in Amman and meets the Christians of Jordan. On Sunday 25th, he flies by helicopter to Bethlehem, where a busy schedule of meetings will also allow a moment of private prayer in the Cave of the Nativity. Then, again by helicopter, the Pope will be taken to Tel Aviv airport for his official entry into Israel. After the ecumenical prayer with the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and representatives of other Christian churches, on the last day of the visit, Monday 26th, he will remain in Jerusalem, for two moments together with the clergy of the Holy Land: a meeting with priests, religious and seminarians at Gethsemane, and a Eucharistic celebration that Francis will celebrate with the bishops of the Holy Land in the Cenacle.
There will be two large masses for the faithful: the first in the afternoon of Saturday 24th at the international stadium in Amman, where 30,000 people are expected, and the second on Sunday morning, at 11 am in Manger Square in Bethlehem, along with 10,000 local faithful.

Presid. Comiss. Liturgia visita Papa Francesco
"The pope is coming to confirm his brethren in the Faith. So, when he meets thirty thousand people in Amman, ten thousand in Bethlehem and then those who will greet him on his journey through the streets of Bethlehem, his first objective will be to encourage the Christians of the Holy Land to be more firm in the faith. "

There will also be meetings scheduled by the protocol for Heads of State: with King Abdullah II of Jordan, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel, and then a visit to Yad Vashem. In addition, there will be respectful gestures to the other great religions, Judaism and Islam, with visits to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. But there will be plenty of time also, at the wish of the Holy Father, for meetings with the people of the Holy Land, especially with the poorest. In Jordan, at the Latin Church of Bethany beyond the Jordan, he will meet refugees and youngsters with disabilities. In Bethlehem, he will greet children from several refugee camps and then have lunch at Casa Nova with some families.

Patriarca latino di Gerusalemme
"In Bethlehem he has asked to eat with four or five families with children. This has given us the problem of deciding which families and children to invite ... People will see and hear the Holy Father, and for those who can get close to him, it will be a great grace. "

It is a dense program that has required intensive preparation in recent months by the various working committees in the Holy Land. They hope to be ready on time, even for the unprogrammed events, typical of Pope Francis.

Presid. Comiss. Comunicazioni sociali visita Papa Francesco
"We are not ready. We are prepared for the unexpected, let’s say, because we know that the Pope likes to surprise. And maybe this country needs surprises, especially those surprises that open doors, and also open the heart. "

The key concept of the whole of Pope Francis’ visit to the Holy Land is, in any case, ecumenical dialogue, fifty years after the historic embrace between Paul VI and Athenagoras.

Patriarca latino di Gerusalemme
"The ecumenical movement for more fellowship and more unity will certainly help us Christians, present here in 13 churches, to walk a little more together. But we must also be realistic: we are still divided. Friendly and polite, but still divided, each with its ritual, even though all these rituals are a treasure, a heritage of Christianity, that we should love and respect. Perhaps we will move forward with more respect, more love and more collaboration. "