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Pope's trip to Holy Land coming into focus

From Yediot Aharonot yesterday and The Tablet today come some tentative details about Pope Francis's trip to the Holy Land. The Israeli newspaper reports that the short trip's proposed schedule has "dashed hopes" of a Papal Mass in Jerusalem.

Instead, the Pope plans only to celebrate Mass in Bethlehem on Sunday May 25, the day of his arrival, and depart the following day.

The timetable for the visit is loaded: Francis will be in Jordan on Saturday and fly on a helicopter Sunday from Amman to Ben Gurion Airport where he will receive the official State reception. During his visit, the Pope will meet with President Shimon Peres and with various religious leaders in Israel.

The pope will tour Yad Vashem, the Western Wall, and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem. Unlike previous pontiffs, Francis will not visit Christian sites in northern Israel.

To the disappointment of many, Pope Francis will not host Mass for believers within Israel. The plan to host Mass in Jerusalem was cancelled because of the short nature of the visit. However, the pope will host a large Mass in Bethlehem – the headline event of his trip to the holy land.

The Palestinian Authority will be the main beneficiary, as it will gain international prominence. In Israel, officials are still hoping the Vatican will reconsider its decision and have the Pope host a second Mass within the country.

Plans could change, of course. Pope Francis has been known to stray from the script.

But this is important news, especially considering he and his friend Rabbi Skorka have wanted to do something big with this trip together.

About the Author

Michael Peppard is associate professor of theology at Fordham University, author of The World's Oldest Church and The Son of God in the Roman World, and on Twitter @MichaelPeppard.



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Hope his Jordan stop is at a Syrian refugee camp;  too bad he isn't spending one more day and heading to Gaza.

Instead of mass in Jerusalem, he could join a sabbath prayer gathering.

I don't remember the Israeli media taking much note of John Paul's Mass in Jerusalem in 2000, a private service in the Upper Room. The focus that day was entirely on his visit to Yad Vashem.



Yad Vashem is a  propaganda unit, compulsory for Israeli schoolchildren, for Israeli armed forces including conscripts and also for visiting diplomats.  I'm very sorry Pope Francis will be there.  

When my pilgrimage went there, I refused to go round, having already seen the "virtual" tour and the comprehensive guidebook.  I sat in the cafeteria, marvelling at a place that sells fancy cakes and cool drinks with black paper napkins and strong black straws.

Better go to Ein Kerem (in the same area) and see a prosperous Israeli suburb developed around beautiful churches for John the Baptist and an ancient well.

Its astonishing and dreadful to me that Israel's shrine to the six million murdered in the Holocaust is called propaganda and is spoken of with utter contempt.  For shame.

"Propaganda." It's sad to see that comment.

One of the most moving events of Pope John Paul II's pilgrimage to the Holy Land was at Yad Vashem. He reunited with Polish Jews he had known as a young man. This, and his visit to the Western Wall, were important, healing moments in the history of Catholic-Jewish relations.

What Jeff and Paul said.

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