Saturday, May 24 marked the beginning of a busy three-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land, for Pope Francis.
The papal visit began in Amman, Jordan where the Pope met with King Hussein. Pope Francis also celebrated Mass where roughly 1,400 children from all over Jordan received the sacrament of communion for the first time. The Pope also greeted refugees from Iraq and Syria.
On Sunday the Pope visited Bethlehem to meet with leaders of the Palestinian Authority, celebrate Mass in Manger Square and see the Church of the Nativity, believed to be the location of the birth of Jesus.
Monday the Pope ended his trip in Jerusalem where he met the city’s grand mufti and chief rabbis, visited the Western Wall and Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, laid a wreath on the grave of the founder of modern Zionism, and signed a joint declaration with the head of Eastern Orthodox Christians.
The papal visit has sparked controversy with some extremist organizations in Israel.
According to the Times of Israel some conservative Jewish groups have called on non-Jews to leave the nation. Friday, police officials maintain they arrested two Jerusalem residents for hanging anti-pope, anti-Christianity posters in the city.
“We have no intelligence about plans to harm the pope himself, but there are plans to embarrass the state of Israel or to disrupt public order during this sensitive visit,” Jerusalem police chief Yossi Pariente told the Times of Israel.
Charles Parlato, a longtime Catholic layman and executive producer of the upcoming historical drama NICAEA, believes the papal visit provides an opportunity to extend an open hand to those with differing religious beliefs.
"We all understand that among believing people significant differences exist among us, said Parlato, who is producing a film that tackles the very heart of the disagreements the Council of Nicaea faced as they debated the divinity of Jesus. “These differences extend to our beliefs even about the very nature of God. However, The Holy Father travels to the Holy Land to remind all people that God respects and values every human and that He knows every hair on the head of every person. His infinite respect and regard for the dignity of Man must always be the common denominator of God for people of every faith. This we must agree on. This is the explicit and symbolic purpose for the trip."
Publication date: May 27, 2014