Middle East

Pope to Start in Jordan First Middle-East Trip


Pope Francis arrives in Jordan on Saturday to start an intense three-day trip to the Middle East, bringing hope to the Christian population and an appeal to members of all religions to work together for peace.

After meeting King Abdullah and saying a Mass in an Amman stadium in his first visit to the region, the pontiff will meet refugees from Syria and Iraq in Bethany on the Jordan, the place where according to tradition Jesus (as) was baptized.

On Sunday morning, leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, is expected to fly by helicopter to Bethlehem, making a six-hour visit to what the Vatican’s official program calls “the State of Palestine”.

Palestinians see the pope’s visit, and the fact that he is flying in directly from Jordan instead of going through the Zionist entity’s security barrier from Jerusalem, as a major morale boost.

To underscore his conviction that all three great monotheistic faiths can live together in the region and help to tackle the political stalemate, Francis has enlisted a rabbi and an Islamic leader to be part of a travelling papal delegation for the first time.

The two – Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Omar Abboud, director of the Institute for Religious Dialogue in Buenos Aires – are friends from when Francis was cardinal in his native Argentina.

Threats to Christians have been scrawled by suspected Jewish radicals on Church property in the Holy Land. One read: “Death to Arabs and Christians and all those who hate Israel.”

“Their writings desecrate our religious symbols. They are written on walls of churches, monasteries,” said Archbishop Fouad Twal, Jerusalem’s top Catholic official, speaking in Amman.

Israeli security forces, fearing that radicals might carry out a major action against the Christian population or institutions, issued restraining orders against several Jewish right-wing activists for the duration of the trip.

In 2012, the Vatican angered the Zionist entity by supporting a vote in the United Nations General Assembly to give Palestinians de facto statehood recognition.

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