The Pope said that a primary reason for the visit was the commemoration of the 50th annivesary of the Jerusalem meeting between Pope Paul VI and the then leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Atengora. Pope Francis will meet with the ecumenical patriarch, Bartholomew in Jerusalem. Together they will celebrate Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Pope told the Sunday crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square, "In the climate of joy, typical of this Christams season, I wish to announce that from 24 to 26 May next, God willing, I will make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. At the Holy Sepulchre we will celebrate an Ecumenical Meeting with all the representatives of the Christian Churches of Jerusalem, together with Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople."
The timeing of the announcement coincided with the conclusion of a meeting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held with leaders of Israel and Palestine.