Pope Francis explicitly said that his purpose in coming to the Holy Land is: “to commemorate the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, which occurred exactly 50 years ago”.
Pope Paul VI was the first pope in modern times to visit a foreign country. On January 4, 1964, he arrived in the Holy Land for a three day visit. This visit took place during the Second Vatican Council, a gathering of all the bishops from all over the world which resulted in an updating of the Church including the beginning of dialogue with Jews and Muslims, a reawakening with regard to the importance of the Bible and extensive liturgical reform.
Pope Paul VI explained that he was going to the Holy Land twenty centuries after Saint Peter had left, he was “returning” to the Holy Land as the successor of Peter. In the Holy Land, the Pope met with the civil authorities in Jordan and in Israel and prayed at the Holy Places in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, etc.
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