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Vatican: Pope’s Israel trip on despite foreign ministry strike

( Pope Francis’s highly anticipated trip to Israel in May will go on as scheduled despite worries over the effect of the Israeli Foreign Ministry strike. In a statement, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the release of the schedule is confirmation that the visit is “continuing as planned.” According to the trip’s schedule, Pope Francis will arrive in Jordan on May 24 to meet with Jordan’s King Abdullah, conduct a Mass in Amman, and meet with Syrian refugees. The next day, Pope Francis will fly to Bethlehem to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, conduct a Mass at Manger Square (the traditional birthplace of Jesus), and greet Palestinian children. Later on May 25, Pope Francis will travel to Jerusalem to have a private meeting with the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I, the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church, where the two will sign a joint declaration in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Jerusalem meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras.

Finally, the pope will visit the Western Wall, Mount Herzl, and Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. He will also meet with Israel’s two chief rabbis, President Shimon Peres, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, the top Catholic official in the Holy Land, told reporters Thursday that the meeting between Pope Francis and Batholomew, a sign of Christian unity, is one of the pontiff’s top priorities for the trip, and that Pope Francis will also seek to promote peace and understanding between Jews, Muslims, and Christians.

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