Pope: “I wish to announce that from May 24 to 26, God willing, I will make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The main aim [of my visit] will be to commemorate the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras.”
A short trip, just three days long. On the agenda: Jordan, Jerusalem and Bethlehem. To help prepare the visit, several committees have been set up, each with a specific mission. Among the key points are the celebrations that will take place during the trip. The most anxiously awaited celebration will be the encounter between Pope Francis and Bartholomew I, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the meeting between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople.
Fr. Stéphane Milovitch, OFM
The liturgy will take place at the Holy Sepulcher in front of the empty tomb of the risen Christ and there will be an encounter where the Holy Father and the Ecumenical Patriarch will probably hug in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary. But it will also be an ecumenical service, as the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem, the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, and local patriarchs will be present at the celebration. Coptic, Syriac and Ethiopian Christians will celebrate together at the Holy Sepulcher. All of these Churches will participate so that the liturgy will be prepared by all and for all.
In the town of Bethlehem on Manger Square, Mass will be celebrated by Arab Christians of various rites and Hebrew-speaking Christians, who live in the Holy Land. “It will be Christmas Mass,” explains Father Stéphane.
Fr. Stéphane Milovitch, OFM
As you know, at the Holy Places you can celebrate the Mass of the day that that given place commemorates. The Pope will, thus, celebrate Christmas with all of the Churches present in the Holy Land. The Latin liturgy will be present but there will also be a place for all of the various rites in the Holy Land.
Another committee that was set up was for Social Communications.
Fr. David Neuhaus, SJ – Social Communications Committee
The work of the committee is divided into three parts: the technical part that needs to prepare necessary infrastructures for the media so that they can share this beautiful moment. In other words, TV and radio, so that journalists can have access to and follow the Pope wherever he may be. This is the technical and logistical part of the visit. There is also the preparation for the journalists who are not believers, so that they too, can understand what is going on during the Pope’s visit. And in order to accomplish this, we need to provide informative content. We want to launch a website. And we wish to accompany the journalists and help them understand what is going on during the visit and more deeply afterwards. These are the committees’ three main goals.
There are many initiatives to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras. Terrasanta Magazine, available in five languages, has a special edition on the historic meeting.
To raise awareness among pilgrims, an exhibition at the Christian Information Center in Jerusalem is being prepared and a large sign will be placed at every shrine that had been visited by Pope Paul VI.
Thus begins the preparation that will help build the future by commemorating a historic meeting.