05/16/2014, 00.00
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Pope: A journey to the Holy Land in the name of ecumenism

Fr. Lombardi gives a press briefing. For the first time Francis Pope and Patriarch Bartholomew - who will meet four times - will recite the Our Father together in the Holy Sepulchre. Expectations of a joint statement. The Pope will use a "normal" automobile. Holy See condemns vandalism of Christian places which will not impact the visit .

Vatican City ( AsiaNews) - An "ecumenical prayer", the Our Father , recited together by Francis Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I is the historical, unprecedented event which will mark the Pope's " brief but intense " trip to the Holy Land, scheduled for May 24 to 26.  This was announced by Fr. Federico Lombardi, Holy See Press Office director, at a briefing to outline of the papal visit.

The commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the embrace between Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, which marked the beginning of a new era in relations between Catholics and Orthodox, is at the heart of  central Pope Francis' pilgrimage.  It is also indicated by the meetings, four in total, between the successors of the Montini Pope and Athenagoras . The first meeting will be private, the evening of Sunday 25 in the seat of the Apostolic Delegation in Jerusalem : "the same place, the same room," said Father Lombardi where Paul VI and the then Orthodox Patriarch met. After the private conversation and the exchange of gifts, the two will sign a "joint declaration". The Pope and Bartholomew will travel separately to the Holy Sepulchre for an ecumenical meeting , during which they will commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus and recite the Our Father together: "The joint recitation of this prayer in a holy place of Jerusalem, in particular in the Holy Sepulchre, is unprecendented", said the Vatican spokesman, not even Athenagoras and Paul VI had a "moment of joint public prayer". The Pope and Bartholomew with the same car - a "normal" vehicle because Francis does not use armored cars nor popemobiles - will go to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, where they will dine with the patriarchs, bishops and the papal entourage. The fourth and final meeting, on Monday, when the Pope will join the Ecumenical Patriarch in the Orthodox church building in front of the Viri Galileai on the Mount of Olives.

Even if there is no confirmed meetings with representatives of other religions, the visit - while predominantly ecumenical - will also have an interreligious stamp in the person of Abraham Skorka , rector of the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary , and Omar Abboud , former secretary general of the Islamic Center of Argentina, both old friends of card. Bergoglio, who will accompany him in his official delegation . "It is a concrete way" to talk about interfaith dialogue , said Father Lombardi. "They will travel together as friends, who have known each other a long time, there will be no need to make great speeches on interfaith dialogue". The program, however, also includes meetings with the two great Rabbis of Jerusalem (Sephardic and Ashkenazi ) and the Grand Mufti on the Temple Mount. And in a new departure from other papal visits, , "because in the past it was not part of ceremonial protocal" on the 26th the Pope will lay flowers at Mount Herzl, the place that commemorates the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl .

Finally responding to reporterswho asked if there is concern about the recent acts of vandalism against Christian places , Father Lombardi responded by expressing the Holy See's  "condemnation", which is shared by "everyone, including the Israeli authorities ," and added the ' "hope that the journey wll take place in a calm atmosphere: we have no reason to doubt it".

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