Papal First: A 'Baggage-Free Trip' To The Holy Land

Pope Francis leaves after his weekly audience at St. Peter's square on May 21. He told the congregation that the main purpose of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land from May 24 to 26 will be to mark the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and the Head of the Orthodox Church of the time, Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople. (Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis will visit the Holy Land over the weekend for what he has called “a strictly religious” pilgrimage.

The Pope is going to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic meeting between his predecessor, Pope Paul VI and the then leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople.

The two Christian leaders embraced on the Mount of Olives in 1964, ending nearly a thousand years of schism between the Eastern Orthodox and Western Catholic Churches.

This is the first state visit for Pope Francis that he has planned for himself, and he’s taking two friends from his home country, Argentina: Rabbi Abraham Skorka, and Omar Abboud, a professor of Islamic Studies and a leader of the Muslim community in Argentina.

Long-time Catholic Church reporter John Allen told Here & Now’s Robin Young that “this is the first baggage-free trip any pope has taken to the Middle East.” Allen says previous popes to visit the region came in the context of fraught relations between the Vatican and Israel, and sometimes after papal actions that had upset both Muslims and Jews.


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