It’s not every day that the pope pays a visit to Israel, but on Sunday and Monday, Francis will be bouncing all around the Jerusalem on a whirlwind tour with a downright catholic variety of stops around the capital (see what I did there?).
While his holiness will perform mass at a stadium in Amman on Saturday, the stops on the Israel and Palestinian territories leg of the trip will see Francis delivering homilies to only a select few John Q. Faithfuls, and security during the trip will be tighter than the Church’s vise on pre-Lutheran medieval Europe.
But that doesn’t mean pope fans should put away their foam fingers yet.
Known for being exceptionally warm and willing to connect with the common man, Francis will be paraded around Jerusalem in an open-top car, causing security headaches for police but giving the average penitent ample opportunity to spy a glimpse of the pope’s trademark kippah, or even stumble into a “chance” meet-cute with the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics.
Here are some places pope buffs might want to hit up to put the “see” in Holy See, based on his official holy schedule.
Though he’ll be coming from Bethlehem, just a short drive from Jerusalem, for diplomatic reasons, the pope will fly into Ben-Gurion Airport on Sunday afternoon before heading back east toward the capital. While the ceremony is only open to accredited journalists and officials, there is still time to book a flight around the same time and make sure you have a front-row seat from the departures terminal. Short of that, this just might be also the perfect time to check if they have a special on communion wafers at the Arcaffe at the airport, giving you ample reason to be there.
I love you, olive view
After a long day, the pope will bunk down at the Latin Patriarchate in the Old City, which apparently has a pope’s quarters. We wouldn’t recommend trying to go there, but on Monday morning, he’ll traipse around the narrow passageways on his way to the Temple Mount and Western Wall. If you know your way around, a number of rooftops around the walled city offer spectacular views of both sites. If you don’t, you can still trek up the Mount of Olives, which also offers a direct vista onto the holy esplanade.
Hail Mary on the cliffs
From the Old City, Pope Francis will make his way to the Mount Herzl military cemetery and then the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and Museum next door. Access to the sites will be restricted during the visit, but you can try a Hail Mary by making your way to the Shvil Hatzukim, or cliffs trail, which runs just across the valley. And even if you don’t catch a peek at his Holiness, you can console yourself with a jaunt around the quaint village of Ein Karem and some water from Mary’s Spring, both situated close by.
Make some friends in Rehavia, fast
From Yad Vashem, Francis will head to meetings with the two Israeli chief rabbis, where they will likely discuss the cool robes and hats they get to wear, before arriving at the President’s Residence for a grip and grin with Shimon Peres. Lucky for you, ol’ Shimmy lives on a pretty normal street in the leafy Rehavia neighborhood, lined with other apartments, so run and make friends with one of his neighbors and you’ll have the best seat in town for when Francis comes calling.
Tryin’ in Zion
After lunch with the prime minister at the Notre Dame Center near the Old City’s New Gate, Francis will give the faithful some last succor with a controversial mass at the Cenacle on Mount Zion, which many believe to be the site of the last supper. If you don’t have a way in, this might be the perfect opportunity to bide your time nearby by checking out the oft-overlooked Armenian Quarter, which borders Mount Zion. Near the Zion Gate are a number of tchotchke shops, so you can get that plush camel wearing an IDF hat you’ve always dreamed of, or you can venture further inward to the Cathedral of St. James, an impressive 12th-century edifice that the pope will not be visiting, but you might as well.
By Monday night, curious Jorge will be headed back to the Vatican. If you don’t catch the pope here, you can fly to Rome as well and pray for an audience. Bring kids. The pope loves kids.