When Pope Francis travels to the Holy Land, he will mark the historic embrace between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras. The act ended centuries of division and a mutual excommunication.
Paul VI's trip in 1964 was also the first international trip by any Pope. Since the times of Peter, no other Pontiff had returned to the Holy Land.
Paul VI defined his visit as a "pilgrimage.” In the three-day trip, he stopped in Jordan, Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem.
Some 36 years later, John Paul II followed his example. He visited from March 20-26, in 2000. At the Yad Vashem he honored the victims of the Holocaust, and at the Western Wall, he asked for forgiveness for all the damage Christians inflicted on Jews. The trip was very well-received at the time.
FR. PIERBATTISTA PIZZABALLA
Custos of the Holy Land
"The impact of this visit was very strong, and wonderful impact, mainly on the Jewish society. Because they saw for the first time a different attitude of the Church towards the Jewish world and people of Israel.”
Former Israeli Ambassador to the Holy See
"His pilgrimage that he made to Israel was very important, not only for the Catholic Church, but also for Israel. Because he has expressed his sympathy, his respect, and the recognition of the State of Israel as a sovereign state.”
John Paul II visited Amman, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth. The Holy Pope's visit to the Holy Land left behind many memorable images.
Benedict XVI followed the steps of his predecessors as well. He traveled to the Land of Jesus in 2009, for seven days. He visited the largest mosque in Amman, and he also stepped foot inside the Yad Vashem, to pray for the Jews killed in the Holocaust.
"May the names of the victims never perish. May their suffering never be denied, belittled or forgotten.”
Just like John Paul II, Benedict XVI visited the a Palestinian refugee camp, next to an Israeli-built wall. During his speech, he denounced this divisive barrier, and called for peace.
"How earnestly we pray, for an end to the hostilities that have caused this wall to be built.”
With their own style, and during decisive moments, the visits of these three Popes have brought along hope, to a land where peace is the greatest desire. Pope Francis will become the fourth Pope to visit the land of Jesus, and to carry the fervor of the Chair of Peter to the birthplace of Christianity.