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Pope Francis to land in politically sensitive West Bank

Published on May 25, 2014 10:03 AM
 
Pope Francis visits Bethany beyond the Jordan river, the site of Christ's baptism, west of Amman, Jordan, on May 24, 2014. - PHOTO: EPA

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (REUTERS) - Pope Francis flies to the West Bank on Sunday to start the most delicate part of his stay in the Middle East, with visits to the Palestinian Territories and Israel, where his every word will be scrutinised.

Church officials say his three-day tour of the region, which started on Saturday in Jordan, is purely focused on religious issues. However, the dividing lines of the generations-old Middle East conflict will be impossible to ignore.

Francis will fly straight by helicopter to Bethlehem, becoming the first pontiff to travel directly to the West Bank rather than enter via Israel - a decision hailed by Palestinian officials as a recognition of their push for full statehood.

The Pope is due to celebrate an open-air Mass in Bethlehem's Manger Square, close to where Christians believe Jesus was born.

 
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