Pope says Middle East trip is “purely religious”
It is believed that Pope Francis will also visit Palestinian Authority chief, Mahmoud Abbas (File/AFP)
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Pope Francis has announced that his upcoming three-day visit to a number of countries in the Middle East is “purely religious.”
The Pope made the announcement on Wednesday during an address to some 50,000 pilgrims in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican.
During his three-day “pilgrimage of prayer,” which begins on Saturday, May 24, the Argentine Pope is to visit cities such as Amman, Tel Aviv, and Palestinian territories.
The Pope said he plans to visit Christian leaders in the region.
Reports say he will also visit Palestinian Authority (PA) chief Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Dheishe refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, which is home to some 13,000 refugees.
The PA chief's adviser for Christian affairs, Ziyyad Bandak, has also said the visit by the Pope is seen as the Vatican's support for Palestinians.
The upcoming visit by the Pope comes days before the Vatican called on Israel to prevent hate crimes committed by illegal Israeli settlers in East al-Quds (Jerusalem).
Earlier this month, the Vatican said that graffiti reading “Death to Arabs and Christians and those who hate Israel” was daubed over Vatican-owned offices belonging to the Assembly of Bishops at the Notre Dame center.
It also announced it was planning to prepare a series of measures to inform the public opinion on the present situation in East al-Quds (Jerusalem).