The Vatican announced late Sunday via a statement from Pope Francis that he will make a pilgrimage to Israel. During his visit to the Holy Land, the Pontiff is slated to meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is the site where the tomb of Christ was located. The Pope is slated to travel to Bethlehem as well as to Jordan during his visit.
“In this atmosphere of joy, typical of this Christmas time, I wish to announce that from 24 to 26 next May, God willing, I will carry out a pilgrimage in the Holy Land,” the Pope said after he completed his Sunday Angelus in Rome. The Pope will also meet with "representatives of all the Christian churches in the Holy Land," he said. The primary purpose of the papal visit will be to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the meeting between Pope Paul VI and then-Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras at the Mount of Olives. It was at this meeting where the joint excommunication which had existed between Constantinople and Rome since 1054 was lifted.
Pope Francis' trip to the Holy Land will mark the second major overseas apostolic voyage of his still-young Pontificate. The first such overseas trip was to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day this past year. Francis has thus far been notably less-traveled than his two predecessors, Popes Benedict XVI and Blessed John Paul II.