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Paul VI trip to Jerusalem loaded with history and many firsts

2014-05-23

Even before landing in Jordan on January 4, 1964, Pope Paul VI made history. His pilgrimage to the Holy Land was the first by any Pope in history since Peter, and the first time a Pope ventured outside Italy.

His arrival to the Holy Land came at a fragile time between two warring countries. Jordanian King Hussein welcomed the Pope in Amman. His next stop was near Bethany, the reported site of the Baptism of Jesus.

From there, he made his way on car through the West Bank and to East Jerusalem, at the time under Jordanian control. Crowds lined the route and in Jerusalem, they completely surrounded the Pope. 

Flanked by large crowds, Paul VI visited the sites along the Way of Cross, ending at the Holy Sepulcher. For the next 24 hours he met with religious and political leaders, including those from the young State of Israel.

The main event, though, took place on the second day of his visit. Paul VI met and embraced Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras. The two said the Lord's Prayer privately, in Latin and Greek. The next day, the two would meet again, and pray together. The two exchanged gifts: Paul VI gave the Patriarch a gold chalice, while Athenagoras gave the Pope a Byzantine gold cross, and an engolpion, the Eastern Christian equivalent of a pectoral cross.

His last day, on the Feast of the Epiphany, he presided a solemn ceremony at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. 

He returned to Rome the evening of January 6, ending a historic three-day trip that changed the course of the modern-day papacy.


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