Holy Father's visit to the Middle East

Pope Francis is due to arrive in Amman later today at the start of his three-day visit to the Middle East. After a courtesy visit to meet the King and Queen of Jordan, he will celebrate Mass at the International Stadium before meeting refugees and disabled young people in Bethany.

Tomorrow, the Holy Father will fly to Bethlehem where he will celebrate Mass in Manger Square and join pilgrims at the traditional site of Jesus' birth. He will also meet with Palestinians at the Dheishe refugee camp near Bethlehem, before flying via Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Pope Francis has insisted on high visibility during his visit and will use an open-top jeep rather than a bulletproof vehicle, heightening security fears. His visit marks the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI's visit to the Holy Land when the pontiff historically met Patriarch Athenagoras I. Tomorrow, Pope Francis will meet the current Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. 

Monday's schedule will include meetings with Israel's President and Prime Minister and visits to holy sites of both Judaism and Islam: the Western Wall of the Temple and the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, as well as the memorial to the Holocaust. Pope Francis is keen to use his pilgrimage as an opportunity for reconciliation - between Christians of the Eastern and Western traditions and among the three Abrahamic faiths: he will be accompanied for his pilgrimage by Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Omar Abboud, a professor of Islamic studies, whom he has known in his home country of Argentina for many years.
 
Pope Francis' visit to Jordan, Palestine and Israel will conclude on Monday evening, after Mass at the Cenacle, the traditional site of the Last Supper. But even this event is potentially controversial, since it is revered by Ultra-Orthodox Jews as the burial place of King David.
 
The full schedule of Pope Francis' pilgrimage is available here.