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Pope Francis lands in politically sensitive West Bank

Published on May 25, 2014 3:32 PM
 
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (left) and Pope Francis (in white) inspect an honour guard in the West Bank town of Bethleham upon the pontiff's arrival on May 25, 2014. The Pope arrived in the West Bank 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. --PHOTO: EPA

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (REUTERS) - Pope Francis arrived in 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 flew 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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