Pope's Mideast visit has 'political dimension': Cleric

VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Pope Francis's visit to the Middle East in May will inevitably have a "political dimension" and there are high expectations also among the Muslim population, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem said on Wednesday.

Fouad Twal said in an interview with I.Media, a news agency specialised in Vatican affairs, that he hoped the visit would also help develop closer relations between local Catholic and Orthodox communities.

"Of course the visit will have a political dimension because this dimension is our oxygen," Twal said.

Francis on Sunday announced he will travel to Amman, Bethlehem and Jerusalem on May 24-26.

Twal said that during his stay in Jordan, Francis would dine with Syrian refugees, poor and handicapped people in the same spot where Jesus Christ is believed to have been baptised on the banks of the River Jordan.

In Bethlehem, he would celebrate a mass and have a meal with local families. In Jerusalem, Twal said the pope would likely visit the Western Wall (Wailing Wall) and possibly the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum.