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Pope Announces First Visit to Holy Land in May

Pope Francis will travel to Jordan, the West Bank and Israel in May, his first visit to the Holy Land.

Francis told thousands gathered for his weekly Sunday blessing that he will visit Amman, Bethlehem and Jerusalem May 24-26. It is the only papal trip confirmed so far for 2014, and the second foreign trip of Francis' pontificate, following his 2013 visit to Brazil for World Youth Day.

The pope said his primary aim is to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic meeting in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and the then-spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras.

Catholics and Orthodox have been divided since the Great Schism of 1054, precipitated largely by disagreements over the primacy of the pope.



During his planned visit, the pontiff said he will hold an "ecumenical meeting with all the representatives of the Christian Churches in Jerusalem" at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in East Jerusalem, venerated as the place where Jesus was buried.

Francis was invited to visit the Holy Land by Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who said he will "walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ."

The 77-year-old pontiff has made many appeals for peace in the Middle East. He has called for "a just and lasting solution" to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Jordan's Royal Palace said the Amman leg of Francis' visit on May 24 will mark a "significant milestone for brotherhood and forgiveness between Muslims and Christians and consolidates the message of peace."

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