Why is he coming to the Holy Land?

Pope Francis made the announcement that he would visit the Holy Land on January 5, 2014. In the announcement, he said: “In the joyful atmosphere, typical of this Christmas season, I wish to announce that next May 24 to 26, God willing, I will be making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The main purpose is to commemorate the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, which occurred exactly 50 years ago today, on January 5.”

“The stages,” added Francis, “will be three in Amman, Bethlehem and Jerusalem. At the Holy Sepulcher, I will celebrate an ecumenical meeting with all the representatives of the Christian Churches of Jerusalem, together with Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. As of now I ask you to pray for this pilgrimage.”

The first mention of a visit to the Holy Land came immediately after the inauguration of his papacy. Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew expressed the wish that the two leaders meet in Jerusalem to commemorate the 1964 meeting between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras.

The Pope was invited to come to the Holy Land by the heads of each state:

– President Shimon Peres of Israel visited Pope Francis on April 30, 2013.

– King Abdullah II of Jordan visited Pope Francis on August 29, 2013.

– President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority visited Pope Francis on October 17, 2013.