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Following the steps of Paul VI to the Holy Land

· Pope Francis announces that he will go to Amman, Betlehem and Jerusalem from 24-26 May ·

Amman, Betlehem and Jerusalem will be the stops on Pope Francis' pilgrimage to the Holy Land from 24-26 May. The Holy Father announced this on Sunday, 5 January, at the end of the Angelus to the faithful gathered in St Peter's Square. 

A “pilgrimage of prayer”, he called it, celebrating the anniversary of the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras which took place on 5 January, 50 years ago. The Pontiff explained various detail of the schedule, underlining the ecumenical meeting with representatives of all the Christian churches in Jerusalem, together with Patriarch Bartolomaios of Constantinople, which will take place at the Holy Sepulchre. In making this announcement, the Holy Father added to the “atmosphere of joy, which characterizes the Christmas Season”.

Celebrating the Solemnity of the Epiphany on Monday, 6 January, in St Peter's Basilica the Pope wished to speak about the experience of the Magi more than 2,000 years ago, who overcame that “dangerous moment of darkness” represented by Herod's anger because “they believed the Scriptures” and thus escaped the “dreariness of the night of the world” in order to follow the path to Bethlehem guided by a light. This is reflected in the attitudes of those who defend their faith from the shadows using what the Pope called “holy 'cunning'” or “spiritual shrewdness which enables us to recognize danger and avoid it”.

We must follow the example of the Magi and learn to follow that light which precedes us and that — as the Bishop of Rome explained before reciting the Angelus on the Epiphany — is a sign of God's love. “The Prophet Isaiah said that God came like the flower of the almond tree. Why? Because in that earth the almond is the first to flower. And God goes ever before, he is always the first to seek us, he makes the first step”, he explained. And we must follow him.

That afternoon the Pope visited the live nativity scene of the Church of Sant’Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori alla Giustiniana in Rome.

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St. Peter’s Square

Nov. 17, 2018

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