The Middle East gets a Papal blessing: 13 facts about Pope Francis and his Holy Land Tour
Pope Francis is blowing through the Holy Land on a whirlwind whistlestop tour as he visits Jordan, Israel, and Palestine from May 24-26, offering many of us a first-hand view of the man who became leader to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics in March 2013. His visit comes near the the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s visit to the Middle East. Continue reading below »
On Saturday, his Holiness flew in on a chartered Alitalia flight into Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport - (no fancy-pants private jet for him!). Following a royal arrival ceremony, he performed Mass for thousands of raucous believers in Amman’s sports stadium, which was also attended by Christian refugees from Syria, Iraq and the Palestinian territories. He was next whisked to the Baptismal Site at Bethany Beyond Jordan, where he met with more refugees and the disabled. Sunday he’s off to Bethlehem, then Jerusalem, before flying out of Tel Aviv on Monday. It’s a schedule that would exhaust the Rolling Stones!
His three day trip has been billed as a "pilgrimage for prayer," rooted in faith and peace - not politics. In this region where secular and spiritual matters are thoroughly intertwined, and where human need is often overwhelming, every one of his words will be evaluated for hidden meaning.
At the Amman service, the Pope urged everyone to set aside grievances, to embrace diversity, and aim for tolerance. That said, Vatican news sources suggest he may take this opportunity to restate the Vatican’s long-standing call for peace between Israel and Palestine. When there’s an open microphone handy, it’s good to be pope!
"I grasp this opportunity to renew my esteem and respect for the Muslim community and show my appreciation for the work carried out by his Majesty the King, which is promoting further understanding between peoples of different faith and communities of different faith," he said.
Pope Francis has become one of the most recognizable figures on the planet, named as Time magazine’s “2013 Person of the Year” (just beating Egypt’s Sisi!) Able to speak in six languages, his communication skills surpass language. He comes across as approachable, loving, and tolerant. Best known for his humility, he also has a wicked sense of humor.
He’s taken bold steps to reform the church’s tarnished image. He’s credited with the worldwide surge in church attendance, and a spike in tourism to Rome and the Vatican City has been pinned on his wide appeal.
See what makes this amazing man tick - some of these facts are guaranteed to tickle!
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