Monday, March 30, 2009

Pope to begin first Middle East visit in Jordan

Pope Benedict XVI's first trip to the Middle East will begin in Jordan where he will visit a major mosque as well as Muslim religious leaders, diplomatic corps and rectors of Jordanian universities.

Benedict will arrive in the Jordanian capital Amman on 8 May and will begin his visit at the Regina Pacis centre for the handicapped and will then make a courtesy visit to the Jordian royal family at the al-Husseini palace.

During his stay in Jordan, Benedict will alsovisit the country's Hashemite Museum and the Mosque of al-Hussein bin Talal, located in Amman, where he will meet Muslim religious leaders.

Later that day he will preside at the celebration of Vespers with priests, religious, seminarians and ecclesial movements in the Greek-Melkite cathedral of St. George in Amman.

On the morning of Sunday 10 May, the pontiff will celebrate mass international stadium in Amman.

That afternoon he is scheduled to visit Bethany Beyond the Jordan, site of the Jesus' baptism, where he will bless the foundation stones of the Latin and Greek-Melkite churches.

Benedict's second leg of his trip will take him to Israel and the Palestinian territories where he will hold meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. He will also celebrate mass in Jerusalem, the Israeli city of Nazareth and the Palestinian city of Bethlehem.

Nazareth is the place which Christians believe Jesus lived and preached, while Bethlehem is said to be the place of Jesus' birth.

The pontiff will also visit Israel's Holocaust museum or Yad Vashem Memorial and will then hold a meeting with inter-faith dialogue organisations.

On 12 May, Benedict will become the first pope to visit the Dome of the Rock, one of Islam's holiest sites, located in Jerusalem's old city. The pontiff will also meet the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.

Benedict will then visit the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site and meet with the two Chief Rabbis of Israel at the Hechal Shlomo Centre.

One of his last visits will be to the Holy Sepulchre Church, located in Jerusalem. Catholics believe the church to be the site of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

It will be the third papal visit to the region after Paul VI's in 1964 and John Paul II's in 2000.

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(Source: AKI)

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