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Pope to visit Jerusalem in May

JERUSALEM – Pope Francis’ visit to Jerusalem, which has not been officially announced, is planned for May 5 when Catholics and Orthodox Christians of the Holy Land will celebrate Easter together.

Pope Francis will visit the Holy Land in May as part of his trip to Jordan and then Israel and Palestine, Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem Fouad Twal said in a press conference in Jerusalem.

Twal announced that the Pope’s visit to Jerusalem, which has not yet been officially announced, is planned for May 5 when the Catholics and Orthodox Christians of the Holy Land will celebrate Easter together for the first time despite their different calendars.

Stressing that Israeli settlement construction “hampers” the Middle East peace efforts which resumed in late June, Twal noted, “the people of our region will suffer until this problem is solved.”

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met Pope Francis in a 25-minute closed-door meeting earlier this month when there were various geopolitical and religious issues on the agenda.

The pope also met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on October 18.

On the other hand, Pope Francis is known for being praised by the Jewish community for his strong condemnations of anti-Semitism. He reportedly said, “due to our common roots, a Christian cannot be anti-Semitic.”

His visit will be the third Papal visit to Israel, following the visits of Pope Paul VI in 1964 and Pope John Paul II in 2000.

The visit of Pope Paul VI, the first pope to meet heads of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, came even before the Vatican’s recognition of the Israeli state and aimed to promote unity within the Christian community.

In 2000, Pope John Paul II visited Israel and credited for having strengthened relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.

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