The preliminary itinerary for Pope Francis’ visit to the Holy Land on May 25th & 26th has been announced by the Vatican Press Office. Like everything he does, it is bound to please some and disappoint others….especially in an area like this where so many different political and religious views collide.
Pope Francis will first land in Jordan on Sunday, the 25th, where he will be greeted and spend the night. It is possible he will visit some of the holy sites in Jordan but we have not yet been informed as to which ones, if any.
On Sunday he will helicopter to Jerusalem where he will visit the Western Wall, the Holocaust Museum (Yad Vashem) & Christian sites in Jerusalem. He will also meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and others.
There will no doubt be disappointment from the Israelis that he is not going to be celebrating Mass in Jerusalem. Instead, he will celebrate Mass in Bethlehem, which is in the Palestinian Territories. The political ramifications are best left to those more in tune with these things, but it does help legitimize the Palestinian Authority perhaps at the expense of Israel.
It is also a very short visit to the Holy Land….two days compared to the five days of his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, so he will not be visiting any holy sites in Northern Israel such as Nazareth.
If you plan to be in the Holy Land during this time, we are not sure what public appearances may be available, or what the availability of attending the Papal Mass. We will continue to follow this. And, of course, Pope Francis has been known to go off-script many times.