05 January 2014 17:06

 VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis announced Sunday that he would travel to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan on May 24-26, his first visit to the Holy Land and one that comes amid a new U.S. push for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Francis told thousands gathered in the rain for his weekly Sunday blessing that he was announcing, "in the climate of joy that is typical of the Christmas season," the three-day visit to Amman, Bethlehem and Jerusalem. It is the only trip so far confirmed for 2014 and the second foreign trip of Francis' pontificate, following his 2013 visit to Brazil for World Youth Day.

Francis said the prime aim was to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic meeting in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and the then-spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Atengora.


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