The Pope’s trip will go ahead despite the Israeli diplomat strike

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Even if the Israeli diplomat strike drags on until the end of May, the Pope’s visit to the Holy Land is definitely going ahead. This is the prevailing view in Jerusalem, an opinion that a number of sources have confirmed, given that the details of the Pope’s visit were defined before the union unrest. The impossibility of following the Israeli ceremonial protocol usually reserved for such occasions may cause logistical difficulties but the belief is that the other ministries involved and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office should be able to guarantee the Holy See the administrative support required for the visit. Even though this may irritate diplomats.

The Holy See has informed Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority that Pope Francis will speak exclusively in Italian during his end of May visit. A number of possibilities were considered but the final decision requires governments to guarantee translations from the language of Dante. Sources close to the bilateral commissions in charge of preparations explained that “Pope Francis only speaks in Spanish in contexts where this language is used by everyone.” This is why Italian is the chosen language for his Middle East trip.

Preparations for the Pope’s visit are in full swing and the Vatican has informed Jordanians, Palestinians and Israelis that the Pope wants to have “contact with people”, leading to much head-scratching among the security services. Some of the governments involved tried imposing limitations on the Pope’s movements but the Holy See is strongly determined in defending the Pope’s chosen approach. The moments when the Pope is expected to embrace the crowds of faithful are the mass in Amman’s stadium and the prayer gathering in Bethlehem’s Manger Square.

Few know that Bergoglio has already been to Israel. He went on a pilgrimage to the country 43 years ago. But the day after he arrived, the 1973 war broke out posing serious security issues that made it hard to respect the original schedule.

Pope Francis will meet Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople at the Apostolic Delegation on the Mount of Olives, in the same building and the same room where Paul VI met Athenagoras in 1964. The embrace between the latter two thawed a thousand-year-old freeze in relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. That visit was also the Pope’s first trip abroad. Of the three monotheistic religions, the Vatican embassy in East Jerusalem is the only foreign embassy located in The Holy City.

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Vatican Insider-Maurizio Molinari