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Preparations for Pope's Holy Land trip back on track

Visit called into question by Israeli ministerial labour dispute

08 April, 15:03
Preparations for Pope's Holy Land trip back on track (ANSA) - Vatican City, April 8 - Preparations for a trip by Pope Francis to the Holy Land in May were back on track on Tuesday following the end of a labour dispute in Israel that had led to fears the visit might be cancelled.

Diplomatic sources told ANSA that Isreal was now participating actively in preparing for the visit to the country and the Palestinian Territories, scheduled for 24-26 May. In March a strike by staff at the Israeli foreign ministry led to speculation within the country that the visit might be cancelled - a possibility that the Vatican, however, consistently denied.

Francis's visit is designed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Orthodox Christian spiritual leader Ecumenical Patriarch Atengora, in Jerusalem.

The pope will visit Jerusalem and Bethlehem before travelling on to Amman, Jordan.

The trip is the second visit to the Holy Land by Francis, who became pope a year ago after Benedict XVI became the first pontiff in 600 years to abdicate.

The young Jorge Mario Bergoglio first travelled in Israel in 1973, just as the Yom Kippur War broke out.

He spent six days confined by the conflict to his Jerusalem hotel, where he studied the Letters of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.

Both of the pontiff's immediate predecessors visited Israel - Benedict in 2009 and John Paul II in 2000.