Pope Plans Full State Visit
Assuming Pope Francis makes it to Israel on his planned trip in May and is not delayed by the ongoing strike by Foreign Ministry workers, his stay will include visits to the Church of the Nativity, a Catholic site, as well as to the Temple Mount, where he will visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Western Wall.
The Pope's schedule was announced Thursday by the Latin Patriarchate, responsible for the affairs of the Catholic Church in Israel. The visit, the Patriarchate said, will be a full state visit, with meetings set with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, and Israel's Chief Rabbis, Rabbi David Lau and Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef. He will also lay a wreath at Yad Vashem and visit Mt. Herzl.
The Pope will enter Israel through the Allenby Bridge, after meeting with King Abdullah II. Before arriving in Jerusalem, he will visit Bethlehem's Catholic churches, and will meet there with Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas.
“The Pope said more than a year ago that he was planning to visit the Holy Land, and he asked us to put aside our differences,” the Patriarchate said, appealing to the various Christian groups who lay claim to control of Christian sites in Jerusalem, and often quarrel. “He will renew our spirit of unity,” the Patriarchate said.