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Rome Reports

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May 2014: Pope Francis travels to the Holy Land

In May, Pope Francis took on a  historical trip to the Holy Land. It was a way to mark 50 years since the embrace between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras. It lasted just a few moments, but it started a new chapter in the relationship between the Catholic and Orthodox Church.  First on the list, Pope Francis visited Jordan, where he celebrated a Mass, with thousands of Middle Eastern Catholics. That same day, he made his way to the Jordan river, where Jesus was Baptized.  Palestine was next on his schedule. The Pope stopped the popemobile and in a highly emotional moment,  prayed before the wall that divides Palestine and Israel. Throughout the three-day visit, Pope Francis repeatedly asked Israelis and Palestinians to respect each state's right to exist and live peacefully.   POPE FRANCIS "There is a need to intensify efforts and initiatives aimed at creating the conditions for a stable peace based on justiceâ?. The Pope took matters into his own hands. He invited the Presidents of Israel and Palestine to pray together for peace in the Vatican. POPE FRANCIS "I would like to invite you, President Mahmud Abbas, and President Shimon Peres, to participate along with me, in an intense prayer for peace, asking God for the gift of peace.â? He also visited the Holocaust's museum and memorial in Jerusalem. There he met six survivors of Nazi concentration camps and kissed the hands of each and every one of them.  In a clear example of inter-religious dialogue, Pope Francis hugged his friend, Argentinian Rabbi Abraham Skorka, and the Muslim leader Omar Abboud in front of the Western Wall. He also celebrated Mass at the Cenacle and visited Mount of Olives. In his return flight, the Pope gave a press conference.  He emphasized his zero-tolerance policy of sexual abuse in the Church.  POPE FRANCIS "A priest that does this betrays the Body of the Lord, because these priests need to lead this boy, or this girl, this young man, this young woman, to holiness. And this boy, this girl, they trust him. And this priest, instead of leading them to holiness, abuses them. This is very serious.â? This same month,  the Pope acknowledged that  he had wept when he heard that some Christians had been crucified in Syria, at the hands of Muslim extremists.  POPE FRANCIS "In some countries, if you carry the Gospel, you can go to jail. You can't carry a cross, because you're forced to pay a fine.â?  He also met with the UN's General Secretary Ban Ki-moon.  The Pope asked him to fight social inequality and promote fraternity and solidarity on a global scale.  POPE FRANCIS "In the case of global political and economic organization, much more needs to be achieved, since an important part of humanity does not share in the benefits of progress and is in fact relegated to the status of second-class citizens.â? In May, Pope Francis met for the first time with the Vatican's new Secretariat for the Economy, which is an entity that was founded in February.  POPE FRANCIS "The Church is aware of Her responsibility to protect and manage Her assets carefully, in light of Her mission of evangelization, with particular care for the needy.â? There were also some endearing moments, like this one, when the Pope greeted this elderly lady in St. Peter's Square. He also met thousands of pilgrims from all over the world, who made it a point to visit the Vatican for a chance to see the Pope up close.  AC/KLH  CTV -BN Up: GRT