x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Pope’s Middle East visit highlights his views on Palestine

Eight facts about Pope Francis's tour of the Middle East.

Jordan's King Abdullah II and Queen Rania receive Pope Francis at the Husseinia Royal Palace in Amman on May 24. Jamal Nasrallah / EPA
Jordan's King Abdullah II and Queen Rania receive Pope Francis at the Husseinia Royal Palace in Amman on May 24. Jamal Nasrallah / EPA

• The official reason for the pope’s trip is for Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, to mark the 50th anniversary of a meeting by their predecessors in Jerusalem that ended the 900-year schism between the two churches.

• The two will preside over a service today in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which Christians believe is the site of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

• Pope Francis’s visit marks the 50th anniversary of a historic trip to the region by Pope Paul VI in 1964, the first by a pontiff in the modern era. Pope John Paul II visited in 2000 and Benedict XVI in 2009.

• The pope lands in the West Bank first instead of Tel Aviv for the first time. Observers say this is a significant move reflecting the Vatican’s recognition of the State of Palestine, which was granted non-member observer state status by the United Nations in 2012.

• Unlike his predecessors who rode in bulletproof vehicles, Pope Francis is travelling in a regular car.

• Pope Francis is the first pope to travel with religious leaders from other faiths, who are joining part of his official entourage.

• Pope Francis is laying a wreath on the grave of Zionist movement founder Theodore Herzl, who is credited with laying the groundwork for the modern State of Israel.

* The National staff

foreign.desk@thenational.ae