Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The pope will hold two meetings with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, as well as an ecumenical meeting in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. He will also sign a joint declaration.
The pilgrimage is particularly important because it marks the 50th anniversary of the embrace of peace in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras, on 5 January 1964.
Although questions were raised about certain issues concerning the three main stops in the papal visit, namely Amman, Bethlehem and Jerusalem. However, Holy See Press Office Director Fr Federico Lombardi, SJ, said in a statement that the release of the programme shows that preparations for the trip are "continuing as planned."
When asked about labour problems in Israel, Fr Lombardi said that he hoped the Vatican authorities would soon be able to resume "formal contacts" with the authorities responsible for the papal visit.
According to the official schedule, the pope will leave Rome in the morning on 24 May. After arriving in Jordan, he will be welcomed at a ceremony at the Al-Husseini Royal Palace in Amman, where he will pay a courtesy visit to King and Queen of Jordan, followed by a meeting with Jordanian authorities and Mass at Amman International Stadium.
The pope will then visit Jesus' baptismal site at Bethany beyond the Jordan, where he will meet Syrian refugees and young people with disabilities at the Latin Church.
On Sunday 25 May, the Holy Father will travel from Jordan to Bethlehem, in the Palestinian Territories, where he will be welcomed at the Presidential Palace during a courtesy visit to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
After that, the pope will meet with local authorities, and then celebrate Mass in Manger Square.
Around midday, he will have lunch with a group of Palestinian families at the Franciscan Convent of the Casa Nova, followed by a private visit to the Grotto of the Nativity.
He will then proceed to the Phoenix Center in the Dheisheh refugee camp, where he will be greeted by children from the Dheisheh, Aida and Beit Jibrin refugee camps.
From Bethlehem, Francis will travel to Jerusalem where he will meet privately with Patriarch Bartholomew I at the Apostolic Delegation in Jerusalem. The two will sign a joint declaration.
This will be followed by an ecumenical meeting in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre to mark the 50th anniversary of the embrace between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras. Afterwards, Francis will dine with the patriarchs and the bishops at the Latin Patriarchate.
On Monday 26 May, after a visit to visit to the grand mufti of Jerusalem in the building of the Great Council on the Esplanade of the Mosques, the Holy Father will lay flowers on Mount Herzl and visit the Yad Vashem Memorial.
He will then make a courtesy visit to Israel's two chief rabbis of Israel at the Heichal Shlomo Center, followed by a meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres at the presidential residence in Jerusalem, and a private meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem.
In the afternoon, Pope Francis will meet privately Patriarch Bartholomew at the building next to Orthodox Church of Viri Galileai on the Mount of Olives.
This will be followed by a meeting with priests, men and women religious and seminarians, and then a Holy Mass with the ordinaries of the Holy Land.
From there, the pope will leave Jerusalem for Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Avivi for his return flight to Rome Ciampino Airport late Monday evening.
The 20-minute meeting was held in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. For Abbas, the pontiff "loves the Palestinian people and loves peace." He hopes that other countries will follow the Holy See and recognise Palestine as "an independent state." Concerns remain over the Holy Places. The Middle East Peace Conference starts tomorrow in Paris. Abbas criticises Trump for his statements on Jerusalem.