Pope Francis spent Monday in Israel visiting the Temple Mount, Yad Vashem, a terror victims’ memorial and other sites, as well as holding meetings with Israeli leaders and others. Throughout the day the pontiff prayed and urged for peace in the region. Here is the Times of Israel’s liveblog of the pontiff’s day in Jerusalem:
High-wire act for Francis
Pope Francis faces a diplomatic high-wire act on Monday as he visits sacred Muslim and Jewish sites in Jerusalem on the final day of his Middle East tour.
The pontiff is rounding off a whirlwind trip which saw him issue a unique invitation to Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to pray with him at the Vatican to end the “increasingly unacceptable” Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as snatching a personal moment at Israel’s controversial security barrier.
Francis had promised the three-day pilgrimage, which began on Saturday in Jordan, would steer clear of political issues. But he ad-libbed from his scripted speeches to condemn anti-Semitism, religious intolerance and those behind conflicts in the Middle East.
On Monday, Jews and Muslims are expected to scrutinize the pope’s every word and gesture as he seeks to bridge the religious divides in meetings with leaders from both sides.
The 77-year-old pontiff will meet the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem on the Temple Mount, Islam’s third holiest site, and the holiest in Judaism as the site of the Biblical temples.
He will then pray at the Western Wall before visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum, where he will speak with Holocaust survivors, and will also become the first pope ever to lay flowers at Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl’s grave on Mount Herzl.
The pope will also celebrate mass at the site known as the Cenacle, or Upper Room, bringing into sharp focus a decades-long debate over the site where Christians believe Jesus had his Last Supper.
The site, on Mount Zion, is located in a two-story building also considered holy to Jews and Muslims, who regard it as the place where the biblical figure David was buried.
On Sunday, Francis celebrated mass in Bethlehem’s Manger Square amid thousands of cheering, flag-waving Christians.
He also made an unscheduled stop by the West Bank security barrier, climbing out of his open jeep to pray, his forehead and hand resting against the wall, in a powerful show of support for the Palestinians.
At the end of the open-air mass, the pope weighed in on the Middle East conflict, inviting Abbas and Peres to join him at the Vatican for a “heartfelt prayer” for peace.
In the wake of the latest breakdown in US-led peace talks, Francis called on leaders to show “courage” to achieve a peace based on a two-state solution, saying “building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a constant torment.”
A senior Palestinian official confirmed Abbas had accepted and would visit the Vatican on June 6, while Peres’s spokesman said only that the invitation was welcomed.
In a boost for relations between bickering Christians, Francis joined Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I in an historic joint prayer for unity between Rome and Constantinople.
The pair met, embraced and kissed at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre inside the walled Old City to mark the historic meeting 50 years ago between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras — the first easing of tensions between the Churches since the Great Schism in the 11th century.
Francis has said the main reason for Middle East visit was the meeting with Bartholomew I, and “to pray for peace in that land, which has suffered so much.” (AFP/Times of Israel staff)
Roads closed around Old City
With Pope Francis jaunting around town Monday, most Jerusalemites are gearing up for wide-ranging traffic delays across the capital.
The pope famously prefers an unarmored popemobile, meaning security officials, unwilling to take chances, plan on closing several roads around his route as he goes from the Old City to Mount Herzl and then to meetings with leaders before heading back to Mount Zion.
In the morning, most police closures will center around approaches to the Old City as Francis makes the short commute between his Latin Patriarchate suite and the holy esplanade of the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.
For now, police say closed roads are: Ben Adiyah, Rockefeller Square, Jericho Way and Mota Gur Ascent.
Francis visits Dome of the Rock
Flanked by a large phalanx of men in suits, Francis arrives on the Temple Mount, where he is being taken on a tour by the grand mufti of Jerusalem.
Francis enters the Dome of the Rock, at the heart of a site revered by Jews as the location of the first and second Temples as well as the Foundation Stone of the earth, and by Muslims as the site where the prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven.
Shoes back on, Francis heads across Temple Mount
Upon leaving the Dome of the Rock, Pope Francis puts his shoes back on, getting a special chair to do so.
He then slowly makes his way across the Temple Mount plaza, stopping to shake hands with Muslim leaders, amid a constant cacophony of camera clicks.
Mufti: Peace must be based on mutual respect
The grand mufti, Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, speaks to Pope Francis, explaining the importance of the sites for Muslims, who believe it is where Mohammed ascended to heaven.
The mufti adds that peace in the region will only happen when there is mutual respect between the sides.
He then tells Francis Israel is creating hardships for Palestinians at the site.
Francis: Nobody may abuse God’s name through violence
Pope Francis addresses the Muslims on the Mount, making a heartfelt plea to “all communities who look to Abraham” for respect and understanding.
“May no one abuse the name of God through violence, may we work together for justice and peace,” he says.
He thanks the leaders for their warm welcome, and says the Dome of the Rock reminds the three great faiths, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, of what they have in common, including monotheism, a large following and a rich history.
He finishes with “Salaam.”
Francis heads to Western Wall
The pontiff now shares a final word with the mufti and other Muslim leaders before entering a Subaru and making the short journey from the Temple Mount to the Western Wall below.
Officials took the rare measure of clearing the Western Wall plaza for security, meaning the pope will not be accosted by anyone trying to sell him red string.
Francis walks to the Western Wall
Francis arrives at the Western Wall, being greeted by wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch.
After exchanging a few words, the two walk slowly down the ramp to the wall, where Francis will bow his head in prayer.
Pope shown model of Temple Mount
Before making it to the wall, Francis is given a short historical briefing on the site, from Solomon’s temple to Herod’s renovation of the Second Temple, which gave Jews the Western Wall, part of the the retaining wall for the site.
The pope is shown a 3-D model of the site, while told in English about the history of the site and where he is standing.
Rabbi emphasizes Jewish hold on Jerusalem
Shmuel Rabinovitch speaks to the pope, mentioning the temple’s menorah, or candelabra, looted by the Romans 2,000 years ago and thought to have been taken to the Italian capital.
Rabinovitch says the Jewish people are standing strong in Israel after the Holocaust, and emphasizes the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, quoting Jeremiah and Psalms.
He requests that all believers abandon hate and anti-Semitism, noting the deadly attack on a Jewish museum in Brussels on Saturday.
Pope puts note in Western Wall
Francis takes a note and reads it before putting it in the Western Wall and taking a minute to pray in front of the holy site, bowing his head and touching the ancient stones.
He then hugs Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Muslim leader Omar Abboud, who are accompanying him on his trip.
The popes visit to the western wall together with the western wall Rabbi pic.twitter.com/bOg3dEIvRT
— Micky Rosenfeld (@MickyRosenfeld) May 26, 2014
Pope signs guest book, heads to Yad Vashem
After an exchange of gifts (the pope gets a book, Israel gets an ancient map), Francis signs the Western Wall guestbook with a lengthy entry, telling the Wall rabbi that he wrote of his joy at visiting the site.
From here, the papal delegation is moving to Mount Herzl for a visit to Theodor Herzl’s grave and then they’re off on a highly touted trip to the Holocaust memorial at Yad Vashem.
At the site, Francis will meet President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other leaders.
While there, the pope will “rekindle the eternal flame,” lay a wreath and meet with six Holocaust survivors.
He will also give an address where he is expected to condemn anti-Semitism.
Israel marks papal visit with stamps
The Israel Philatelic Service today publishes a stamp sheet in honor of the pope’s visit in Jerusalem. The sheet contains 12 postage stamps showing a local beach with the word “Israel” written in the sand, and 12 images of important Christian Holy sites in the Holy Land, such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
“Israel’s stamps are a diverse gallery of events and personalities, crossing seas and continents and act as bridge between cultures,” says Israel Philatelic Service director Yaron Razon.
Once the pontiff concludes his visit, the service will issue another special sheet with stamps featuring “exclusive pictures,” the Israel Postal Company announced.
‘Every Jerusalemite’s dream’
As Francis makes his way across the capital to Mount Herzl on its western edge, helicopters can be heard buzzing overhead.
The pope’s large motorcade glides unimpeded through empty streets across the notoriously clogged city, a picture of what one Israeli TV commentator calls “every Jerusalemite’s dream.”
Visit to Herzl’s grave a ‘nod to Zionism’
Francis’s visit to Herzl’s grave for a wreath laying will be fairly short, but many see it as having a wide significance in giving papal support for Zionism.
Speaking in Jerusalem last week, Abraham Skorka noted that Francis’s visit to Mount Herzl and Herzl’s grave could be understood as a nod to Zionism. “That is a meaningful act,” Skorka said. “He understands the importance of the Land of Israel and the State of Israel to the Jewish people.”
The two last popes who visited Israel — John Paul II in 2000 and Benedict XVI in 2009 — did not visit Herzl’s grave. (The first pope to visit, Paul VI in 1964, steadfastly refused to acknowledge that he was even in Israel.)
The visit may also act as a counterbalance to his support Sunday for the “State of Palestine.”
Pope to make unplanned visit to terror victims’ memorial
Francis, flanked by Peres and Netanyahu, lays a wreath at Herzl’s grave and marks a moment of silence at the site.
He had originally been planned to be whisked away to nearby Yad Vashem right after, but while at the Mount Herzl military cemetery, Francis will apparently make an unscheduled stop at a monument for terror victims, at the request of Netanyahu.
Visit to terror memorial counterbalance to wall stop?
The visit to the terror victims’ memorial, at Netanyahu’s request, could be seen as a response to the pope’s unplanned visit to the security barrier in Bethlehem on Sunday.
The stop at the barrier became a highlight of the pope’s trip and was seen a major PR coup for Palestinian efforts to highlight Israeli repression.
The memorial is nearby on Mount Herzl, and so will not throw off the trip’s very tight scheduling by much.
Pope visits terror memorial with Peres, Netanyahu
The pope is spending several minutes at the terror victims memorial, standing next to Peres and Netanyahu and surrounded by security and press.
The site was inaugurated in 1998 and commemorates victims of terror attacks since 1851 on 78 tablets.
Last pope’s speech at Yad Vashem ill-received
The pope is making the short jump to Yad Vashem, marking the most emotional part of the visit, at least for Jews closely following it.
The last visit by a pope to the site, Benedict’s visit in 2009, drew some ire after the pontiff, who was a member of the Hitler Youth, was accused of issuing a “lukewarm” condemnation of anti-Semitism, according to a Haaretz report at the time.
Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, the chairman of Yad Vashem and father of Chief Rabbi David Lau, who will meet Francis after the Yad Vashem visit, said Benedict’s speech refused to acknowledge the enormity of the Holocaust.
“There’s a dramatic difference between killed and murdered, especially when a speech has gone through so many hands,” Lau told the paper at the time.
The speech “didn’t have a single word of condolence, compassion or sharing the pain of the Jewish people as such. There was a lot about the pain of humanity, cosmopolitan words,” he added, noting that he used “millions” and not “six million.”
Pope enters Yad Vashem
The pope enters Yad Vashem with his sizable delegation, including its heads Yisrael Meir Lau and Avner Shalev.
Choir sings Hannah Szenes poem
The Ankor girls choir stands in the hall, solemnly singing a poem by Hannah Szenes, a Hungarian girl who escaped Budapest for Israel, then returned to Europe to rescue Jews before she was captured and killed.
The haunting music gives the ceremony an otherworldly feel.
The choir was also on hand in 2009 for pope Benedict’s visit to Yad Vashem.
Francis lays wreath
Pope Francis places a wreath at Yad Vashem, pausing for a moment to remember the victims of the Shoah.
Pope meets survivors
After hearing the solemn prayer of El Maleh Rahamim, traditionally said over the dead, Pope Francis kisses hands with six survivors: Avraham Harshalom, Chava Shik, Joseph Gottdenker, Moshe Ha-Elion, Eliezer Grynfeld, and Sonia Tunik-Geron.
The life stories of the six were published by Yad Vashem, each special in its own way, yet tragically typical of all of Europe’s Jews who lived through the Holocaust.
‘Adam where are you?’
Pope Francis ascends to the podium and stands silently for several moments before beginning his speech.
“Adam, where are you, where are you, old man?” he begins, quoting Genesis.
“In this memorial of the Shoah we hear this question once again,” he says.
‘Never again, Lord’
The pope asks a series of questions of his fellow humans, who caused such tragedy.
“Who corrupted you, who disfigured you, who led you to believe you are the master of good and evil? Not only did you torture your brothers and sisters but you sacrificed them to yourself, because you made yourself a God.”
“Once again in this place we hear this voice of God. Adam, where are you?”
“A great evil has befallen us, as such that has never occurred,” he says.
“Grant us the grace to be ashamed of what men have done, to be ashamed of this massive idolatry.”
“Never again, Lord, never again,” he concludes.
Pope presented with painting from Shoah victim
The pope takes several moments after his address, standing at the podium before stepping down and being presented with a replica of the painting “Prayer,” drawn by Holocaust victim Abramek Koplowicz when he was 13.
The choir then sings the Psalm “Mi Ha’ish” before the pope and his delegation leave.
Netanyahu tells pope security fence prevents terror
Netanyahu releases a statement thanking the pope for visiting the terror victims’ memorial at Mount Herzl.
“I explained to the pope that the security fence prevented many more victims that Palestinian terror, which continues today, planned to harm,” Netanyahu says, referring to Sunday’s papal pause at the security barrier at Bethlehem.
The statement essentially confirms the suspicion that the stop at the memorial was intended as a response to Francis’s visit to the wall in Bethlehem, during which he offered a silent prayer.
The pope had said the trip would steer clear of politics, but it seems he has quickly found himself at the center of a tugging match between Israel and the Palestinians.
Pope heads to meeting with chief rabbis
After leaving Yad Vashem the pope will now venture into the heart of west Jerusalem for visits to Heichal Shlomo with the country’s two chief rabbis, Ashkenazi rabbi David Lau and Sephardi rabbi Yitzhak Yosef.
The pope will deliver a speech there before a visit to the President’s Residence where he will speak with Shimon Peres.
Rabbis greet Francis with thanks
Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef thanks the pope for speaking against anti-Semitism and welcomes him to Jerusalem.
Turning to his right, the other chief rabbi, David Lau, tells Francis that Jerusalem has meaning for the three major monotheistic religions and says he hopes they can give peace to the world.
Francis given book on Vatican-Jewish ties
Pope Francis is presented with a book about Vatican-Jewish relations.
The group is then introduced to the various dignitaries in the audience.
A way to watch the pope’s visit
While our liveblog offers up-to-the-minute coverage of Pope Francis’s visit, those who want a more live experience can tune into the Vatican news site’s video feed, which is following all the goings-on complete with English translations.
Pope calls terror ‘absolute evil’
Lior Haiat, a diplomatic official organizing the pope’s visit, says Francis strongly condemned terror while at the terror victims’ memorial.
“Terror is absolute evil. It comes from evil and causes evil,” he quotes the pope saying. “Never again. Never again.”
Yosef thanks pope for stance against anti-Semitism
Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef gives the first speech, zeroing in on the Ten Commandments and noting that the first five deal with relations between man and God and the second five, between man and man.
“It’s impossible to separate between man and God and man and his fellow,” Yosef says.
Yosef then tells a Talmudic parable about a donkey and a gem with the moral that man must not be selfish, but share what he has.
“We believe there is a place for God, but also our fellow,” he says.
Bringing up Saturday’s Belgium museum shooting attack, he then thanks the pope for speaking out against anti-Semitism and says the church can help bring peace, “a real peace.”
#PopeFrancis to chief rabbis: "It is good to be with brothers and if they are older brothers, it's even better"
— Catholic News Svc (@CatholicNewsSvc) May 26, 2014
Lau: Bolster Israel, where there is freedom of religion
Chief Rabbi David Lau speaks next, saying he wants to focus on the importance of life.
“Even our most important commandments are pushed off if there is a life-and-death danger.”
Lau says a few meters from here, people — women, children, babies — were killed. People from all religions took care of the wounded, he adds, without regard for religious.
He calls on the pope to convene an interfaith peace conference in Jerusalem, saying that there is freedom of religion in all areas under Israeli control.
“Strengthen Israel, strengthen the Jews against hate and anti-Semtism,” Lau urges the pope.
Pope calls for spiritual Jewish-Christian ties
Now the pope stands up to speak, saying he’s been able to count on Jewish organizations for support since his ascent to the papacy.
“I’m convinced that the progress that has been made in recent decades between Jews and Catholics has been a genuine gift from God,” he says.
He also notes the growing dialogue between the Chief Rabbi and the Vatican’s department for relations with the Jews, saying it is reaching its bar mitzvah and has a bright future.
He then calls for the bond to be investigated not just from a human angle but also spiritual.
“On the part of Catholics there is a sincere desire to reflect on the Jewish roots of our own faith,” he says. “I trust with your help among Jews too there will be a genuine interest in Christianity.”
“Together we can make a great contribution to the cause of peace,” he says.
Pope to meet Peres, sick kids
After meeting the chief rabbis, the pope will now leave for a meeting with President Shimon Peres at his residence in the leafy Rehavia suburb.
While there, the two will hold a private meeting with Israeli and Vatican officials.
They will also give public remarks at a ceremony at the residence.
The pope will also meet with a group of sick Christian-Arab children whose wish to meet the pope is being made possible through the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
A group of students from a Catholic high school in Haifa are also on hand for the stop, along with a large gaggle of press.
Francis’s ‘kind eyes’
Religious Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett posts a picture of himself on Facebook, writing that he told the pope that he sees the State of Israel as the realization of the biblical prophetic visions.
Plus, he writes, he noted that Francis had “kind eyes.”
Francis in Peres’s house
After a quick trip, the pope arrives at the President’s Residence, where he is greeted by Peres and taken to see the group of sick children, who kiss his hands before he moves on.
He is then taken to sign the guestbook, sitting as camera flashes pop amid a large media presence.
Peres and Francis exchange gifts
Peres sits with Francis, before the two quickly get up to inspect the mosaic, which shows an olive tree and doves for peace, as well as a fish, to represent Jesus.
Francis gives Peres a medallion representing the visit of Pope Paul VI, 50 years ago in 1964, which this trip commemorates.
“I thank you for your message of peace,” the pope tells Peres. “I feel very blessed.”
Peres thanks the pope, and the journalists, who are studiously watching every move of theirs.
Pope has ‘good feeling’ with Peres
Pope and Peres are now holding their private meeting before making public remarks at ceremony outside.
On Sunday, Francis invited Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to visit the Vatican to pray for peace, and both accepted.
Officials say the meeting will take place on June 6.
A Vatican spokesperson told reporters the invite to Peres and not Netanyahu was not a slight, but a sign of the close friendship between the pontiff and the president.
“The pope has with President Peres a good feeling, this is clear,” the spokesperson said, according to The New York Times. “This is not an exclusion of the other, but there are good premises to pray together with President Peres and Mahmoud Abbas.”
— PresidentPeres (@PresidentPeres) May 26, 2014
Peres, Francis symbolically plant tree
After about a 15-minute meeting, Peres and the pope enter the sunlight for the public ceremony.
Before going on stage, the two stop next to an olive tree to symbolically plant it while strolling through the residence gardens.
Interestingly, though Francis is about 15 years younger than Peres, it seems the Israeli president is the one helping him down the stairs and not vice versa.
Peres calls pope ‘combatant against anti-Semitism’
“You have come to Jerusalem which radiates faith and understands suffering. The humility in your nature and the power in your spirit raised a spiritual elation and a thirst for peace,” Peres tells the pope in prepared remarks.
“Today, you are greeted here by a distinguished and diverse representation of Israeli society. A society in which freedom of speech, the right to express oneself and the respect of holy sites are cornerstone values.”
Peres then calls Francis a “combatant against discrimination, anti-Semitism and racism.”
Peres: Bloodshed calls for soul-searching
Without naming names, Peres lashes out at “the blood that is shed in city squares, and in the thick of villages.”
“No one can stand the growing number of widows, orphans, refugees that run with nowhere to go, and foodless. Grief and bereavement calls for true soul-searching, everywhere and at all time.”
‘Moral ethics and science can solve poverty and violence’
“Your visit, Your Holiness, is a moving event with the power to motivate the religious leaders into joining forces to enable moral ethics and scientific innovations to enable each person to free themselves from despair, poverty and violence,” Peres continues.
“Faith and science have the power to reveal the hidden strengths within people, the treasures of the land, and the innovation stemming from research centers.”
Peres: Spiritual leaders must take stand against terror
Peres than calls for a world without fear, free of terror.
“Those who plant the seeds of evil today are the terror organizations. … They have no pity and spread destruction. … We must stand together to prevent the menace on the lives of people and on world peace,” he says.
“In the face of moral corruption we must show moral responsibility. And make clear that there is no greater contradiction than that between faith and murder,” Peres continues. “I appeal to all the religious and spiritual leaders of our time: Make your voices clearly heard. With a distinct message. It is our duty that our children, the children of the world, regardless of religion or nationality, may live without fear and grow up in a world free of slaughter, a world which allows each person to live as a human being.”
People are ready for peace, Peres says
The president tells the pope that his visit is important for regional peace.
“I believe that your visit and call for peace will echo through the region and contribute to revitalizing the efforts to complete the peace process between us and the Palestinians, based on two states living in peace. A Jewish state — Israel. And an Arab state — Palestine,” he says.
“This solution can be reached by mutual agreement. I believe that the citizens of the region want peace. They pray for peace. They are ready for peace with their neighbors and with all the nations of our region.”
Peres: I will pray that we work together to end strife
Peres responds to an invitation from the pope to visit the Vatican with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to pray for peace.
“Your visit to the Holy Land is an important opportunity for a joint prayer to God in Heaven for peace. We would be honored to offer such a prayer either in our home or yours. In accordance with your kind offer,” he says.
“A prayer that children will grow without danger to their lives. That a mother will bear her child without hearing a siren. That every man will sit under his vine or his fig tree untroubled. We will work together, Jews, Christians and Muslims to bring an end to the conflicts.”
“Economic prosperity and social justice for all. I believe that peace is the key to bringing about these changes.”
‘Israel born in innocence’
Peres tells Francis that Israel is open to all pilgrims and was “born in innocence.”
“We are a small nation but with the world. A nation dedicated to tikkun olam – bettering the world. A world which you call ‘a world of brotherhood.'”
He finishes with a call to not give up on peace.
“I was young and now I am old. I learned that dreams do not age and I recommend to all act accordingly,” he says.
“You walked in pilgrimage and you paved a road.”
‘Long live the pope’
The pope now rises to speak, to raucous applause, at least by President’s Residence standards, and cheers of “long live the pope.”
Dignity leads to peace
Francis makes a call for protection to be given to holy sites, with their statuses maintained and also safeguarded for the future.
“How good it is when pilgrims and residence enjoy free access to holy places,” he says.
“You are known as a man of peace and a peacemaker,” he tells Peres, calling for dignity of every person.
That dignity, he says, can bring peace. He calls for all sides to continue to work for peace.
Francis: Christians in Israel want to be full-fledged citizens
Francis speaks out against discrimination, terror and anti-Semitism. He says Israeli Christians live in Israel and wish to contribute as “full fledged citizens who reject terrorism in all its forms.”
The pope says guaranteeing freedom for all religious groups is important to the health of the state.
“I assure you of my constant prayer for the attainment of peace, and all the inestimable goods that accompany it.”
‘Peace be upon Israel’
Francis ends his speech with a call for “peace upon Israel.”
The choir then again kicks into gear again, this time joined with Israeli singer David D’or with a song about peace.
Francis in Yad Vashem guestbook: Never again!!
The text of the pope’s entry into the Yad Vashem guest book, written in Spanish, follows the same theme as his speech there, noting the depths to which man can sink and calling for “never again.”
“With shame for what man, who was created in the image of God, was able to do; with shame for the fact that man made himself the owner of evil; with shame that man made himself into God and sacrificed his brothers. Never again!! Never again!!”
The pope’s note in the Western Wall
Here is a picture of the pope before he inserted his note into the Western Wall, apparently captured by a very well-placed camera. Can anybody make out what the note says?
Simple fare planned at lunch with Netanyahu
After the songs, Francis makes his way out of the President’s Residence. He will now head back toward the Old City, where he will meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Notre Dame Center and have lunch.
We don’t know what is on the menu, but as we reported last month, it will likely include simple fare: soups, rice and water rather than wine or spirits, at the Vatican’s request.
“Of course, he’s Argentinian, so look for good, good meat,” Father Juan María Solana, L.C., chargé of The Holy See at the Notre Dame center, said in late April. “We would like to offer the Holy Father the best we can, because he is our leader and our superior, and we love him very much — because he is the pope, and because he is Francis.”
Christians kept from Jerusalem conference
Should the pope check his tablet on the way to lunch, he may be unhappy to learn that some 20 Middle Eastern Christians on their way to a conference in Jerusalem were recently denied entry into Israel, as Mitch Ginsburg reports.
The Crossroads Conference 2014, run by Vicar David Pileggi, the head of Christ Church Jerusalem, was to host 100 Christians from Egypt, Jordan and Iraq (the Kurdish areas), along with several Armenians and Iranian refugees. The “Vicar of Baghdad,” Canon Andrew White, was the guest of honor.
The participants, including two Kurdish parliamentarians who had been granted permission to travel to Israel by the Kurdish Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, one Coptic lawyer and several church leaders, were to take part in a conference that sought to “try and advance greater Christian presence in Muslim lands” and to “encourage them to get out of their ghettos,” Pileggi told The Times of Israel in a phone interview.
Despite 40 visa applications being submitted, only 20 people were allowed in, with an Israeli academic telling Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar the procedure was random.
PM to pope: I hope neighbors will heed call for tolerance
Pope Francis meets with Benjamin Netanyahu at the Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem.
Speaking through a translator Netanyahu says he hopes the pope’s call for tolerance and against anti-Semitism will be accepted by Israel’s neighbors.
“We also hope that your call for tolerance, coexistence and an end to incitement, anti-Semitism and terrorism will be accepted by all of our neighbors,” Netanyahu says. “If the incitement against the State of Israel ceases, along with the terrorism, there will be no need for the means that we have undertaken, such as the security fence, which has saved lives, thousands of lives.”
He then presents Francis with a painting before the media is ushered out.
Christians unprotected in Bethlehem, Netanyahu warns pope
While speaking with Pope Francis, Netanyahu also said the Middle East had become a place where Christians were not safe.
Netanyahu singled out Bethlehem, where Francis visited on Sunday, as a place where Christians were not protected.
As Time magazine noted Sunday, the pope’s stops in Bethlehem and Amman belied the shrinking role for Christians in the region.
In Amman, Francis held mass in front a half-empty stadium, and in Bethlehem most of the 9,000 people attending the service at the Church of the Nativity were foreigners, according to the magazine.
The city, revered as the birthplace of Jesus, is today only about 15 percent Christian, down from a majority just 50 years ago. Some blame Israel for the exodus, while others point to harassment from West Bank Muslims.
A recent Pew study backs up Netanyahu’s claims. The survey found that Christians faced discrimination in more countries in the Middle East and North Africa than any other region in the world.
Francis himself has spoken out against discrimination of Christians in the Middle East, telling a group of church officials from Syria Iran and Iraq in 2013 that he was concerned about “the situation of Christians, who suffer in a particularly severe way the consequences of tensions and conflicts in many parts of the Middle East.”
Pope to focus on Holy Land Christians for next few hours
After a whirlwind morning of visiting Jerusalem sites and speaking with Israeli leaders, Francis will spend his last half-day in the region concentrated on his own house, starting with a meeting with Eastern Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I on Mount Zion.
From there, here will meet with priests and seminarians at the Garden of Gethsemane before heading to Mount Zion.
There he will hold a service in the Cenacle, or Upper Room, where Jesus is believed to have held the Last Supper.
The Cenacle visit has the highest potential to raise hackles. Jewish activists have protested the visit to the site, which sits above a tomb believed to belong to King David, as a sign of Church plans for control of the spot.
While Israel is in negotiations with the Vatican over increased access, officials have insisted they will not damage the status quo by giving it over to the church.
From Mount Zion, Francis will go to Mount Scopus, where he will board a helicopter for the airport. A ceremony is planned before he takes off back for Rome.
Brussels coverage trumps pope in Hebrew media
While Francis’s visit is certainly big news, it is overshadowed in the Hebrew print press Monday by an investigation into a Saturday shooting at a Jewish museum in Brussels, which left four people dead, Marissa Newman reports.
While the papers concede that the ongoing Belgian investigation of the deadly shooting spree and the video footage released to the public on Sunday yield more questions than answers, they nonetheless dedicate much of their coverage to the ever-thickening plot.
Only Haaretz leads with the papal visit, providing a blow-by-blow account of the pope’s itinerary on Sunday, and his upcoming stops on Monday.
In an op-ed for the paper titled “A Palestinian Victory,” Jack Khoury cites the pope’s decision to pray near the security barrier, and fly from Bethlehem to Ben Gurion Airport, as testament to his recognition and support of the Palestinian cause.
“The wide-ranging international coverage that accompanied the visit offered a great opportunity for PA spokesmen to get their message across precisely now, at the moment of crisis in the diplomatic process. But more than that, there is no doubt that the pope offered a tailwind to the Palestinians to their public relations campaign they’ve been advancing in past months,” he writes.
At terror memorial, Netanyahu defends security barrier
The Prime Minister’s Office released a short video of Pope Francis’s visit to the terror victim’s memorial on Mount Herzl earlier today.
In it, Netanyahu tells the pope the story of a classmate of one of his sons, a girl blown up “because there was no fence, no wall.”
The pope then solemnly speaks out strongly against terrorism.
“Our people understand the way of terrorism doesn’t help. The path of terrorism is fundamentally criminal,” he says before noting that he prays for all terror victims.
“Please no terrorism anymore,” he says.
Netanyahu then tells him that Israel wants peace.
“We have to build a wall against those who teach [violence],” he says, adding that if there was no incitement the walls could come down and “there would be peace.”
An official said Netanyahu’s focus on the wall was intended to add context to the pope’s prayer a day earlier at the Bethlehem security barrier, an unplanned stop which was seen as a major PR coup for Palestinians.
Finding jokes amid the solemnity
The pope’s visit, including visits to some of the most politically and religiously tense sites in the world, has been marked by solemn speeches and odes to peace and cooperation, not exactly stand-up material.
But several people watching the pope’s visit have found in it nuggets of comedy.
BREAKING: Netanyahu adds ‘ride in Israeli tank’ to Pope’s itinerary to counterbalance yesterday's unscheduled visit to separation wall
— Pan-Arabia Enquirer (@arabiaenquirer) May 26, 2014
So, the Pope is in Israel with an Imam and a Rabbi. .. If they don't walk into a bar, it's all been for nothing.
— Just me. (@Welshtabby) May 25, 2014
Traffic jams, while frustrating, are also proving a source of some semi-bitter comedy.
Just spent an hour driving in Pope traffic. Lord save us and have mercy on our souls.
— Miriam Schwab (@miriamschwab) May 25, 2014
And, a plug for my own “comedy.”
To make him feel at home, Pope Francis will be greeted at Ben Gurion by a group of lepers, otherwise known as Israeli government ministers
— Joshua Davidovich (@JMDavido) May 25, 2014
How the pope wound up at the terror victims’ memorial
Raphael Ahren has the backstory behind the pope’s visit to the terror victims’ memorial on Mount Herzl Monday morning.
According to his report, Israeli officials saw Francis’s stop at the separation barrier in Bethlehem on Sunday as a carefully planned PR stunt by Palestinians, and decided they needed to respond.
After some brainstorming, it was Rami Hatan, the director of the Foreign Ministry’s World Religions department, who came up with the idea: Why not ask the pope to visit the memorial for the victims of terrorism, to show him and the entire world why we built the wall in Bethlehem?
“The Vatican officials explained to us that the pope didn’t pray against the separation barrier, but he prayed against the situation that forces such a wall to be built,” diplomat Lior Haiat said. “Therefore, we thought we need to show him why we built the wall. It’s obvious that the barrier is a result of something, it is not the reason.”
After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved the idea, the Foreign Ministry staff approached the Vatican official in charge of protocol, who immediately agreed.
Pope greeted at Gethsemane with cheers
As bells peal, Pope Francis arrives at the Church of Gethsemane for a homily with priests and Catholic seminarians.
He enters the church to massive applause, ululating and fanfare as penitents reach out to touch the pope.
The event is running some 15 minutes late, and many of the people have been waiting for several hours for the pope to arrive.
Pope prays at Gethsemane
Francis kneels before an altar in prayer before being helped to his feet (and losing his zuchetto, or head covering) and being seated.
The Church of All Nations is built next to the garden where Jesus is said to have visited the night before his Crucifixion, at the foot of the Mount of Olives.
The site today holds an olive grove (Gethsemane or Gat Shemanim, which means oil press in Hebrew), a grotto venerated as holy, and the Church of All Nations, with a colorful mural on its front identifiable from far away.
Francis recalls agony of Jesus at church
The pope now gets up to speak at the church, remarking that Jesus was at the spot they stand at now.
In a nod to the audience, the speech is most of all religious in nature, not touching on current events.
“We dread to approach what Jesus went through at that hour,” he says recalling the agony of the crucifixion.
He then begins urging Christians not to escape a call to action, like those who abandoned Jesus did.
Remain strong despite hardships, pope tells J’lem Christians
Francis concludes his remarks with a nod to hardships faced by the area’s Christians, urging them to stay strong.
“I salute and greet all the Christians of Jerusalem, well aware of their difficulties,” the pope says.
“Let us imitate the Virgin Mary and St. John and stand by all those crosses where Jesus continues to be crucified,” he says.
Cheers, and Francis leaves
Cheering and music once again as Francis leaves the church. He will next travel to Mount Zion, where he will hold a mass at the Cenacle.
Pope plants ‘Palestinian tree’ at Garden of Gethsemane
Francis walks to Garden of Gethsemane, where he plants an olive tree, echoing a similar act by his predecessor Paul VI in 1964.
The tree planted by Paul has become a pilgrimage site for Christians.
“This tree is a symbol of peace, and we all hope that the pontiff’s visit will bring forth the fruit of peace,” Fr. José Benito Choque, a Franciscan of the Custody of the Holy Land who is responsible for the sanctuary, said according to Terrasanta.net. “The tree that the pope will plant is a gift from the churches of the Holy Land. It is a Palestinian tree.”
After planting the tree, Francis gets into his car for the short drive to Mount Zion.
PM’s bid to throw cold water on security wall visit
As Francis’s trip to Israel winds down, Israeli media is noting that his meeting with Netanyahu at the Notre Dame Center just after noon seems to have become the trip’s keystone, at least from official Israel’s perspective.
At that meeting, Netanyahu explained Israel’s need for the security barrier, trying to pour cold water on Francis’s visit to the wall in Bethlehem a day earlier.
“When incitement and terror against Israel stops, there won’t be the need for the security fence, which has saved thousands of lives,” Netanyahu told the pope during the meeting.
“We hope that your call for tolerance and coexistence and an end for incitement, anti-Semitism and terror, will be accepted,” he said.
Netanyahu also said that Israel’s Christian population has quadrupled since the country’s founding in 1948 and lauded Israel’s treatment of its Christian population.
“We guard the rights of Christians in Israel. That unfortunately does not exist in many places in the Middle East. Even Bethlehem, where your holiness visited, Jesus’ birthplace, has become… a Muslim city,” Netanyahu said.
Hana Bendcowsky, an expert in Jewish-Christian relations, said Netanyahu’s figures were somewhat misleading. She said the Christian population’s growth is mostly due to Israel’s granting residency to about 10,000 Palestinian Christians when it captured East Jerusalem in 1967, and some 30,000 Christians who immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union because of Jewish family ties. These Soviet immigrants have generally been absorbed into the Jewish majority.
(AP/Times of Israel staff)
Francis holds mass on Mount Zion
Pope Francis is now at the Cenacle, or upper room, on Mount Zion, holding mass.
Before reading the liturgy, Francis walks a censer filled with incense around the room, believed to be the site of the Last Supper.
Mass site at center of tensions
The pope has donned his iconic hat for the occasion of the mass, an intimate affair that has the potential to become a flashpoint of Vatican-Jewish tensions.
The room is not often used for Christian rites, in a bid by Israel to keep the delicate status quo of the site.
The church is talks with Israel for increased rights to hold services there, but some ultra-Orthodox and Jewish nationalists have lobbied against any changes to the site, which is also said to hold the tomb of King David.
Israeli and Vatican officials have insisted that talks are not over ceding the building to the church, but rumors to that effect have persisted, further exacerbating tensions.
Ahead of the pope’s visit, police issued orders against a number of Jewish ultra-nationalists to stay away from parts of Jerusalem, in a bid to keep them from disturbing the pope’s visit.
Francis speaks of importance of Upper Room
Francis begins his homily to the small crowd of clerics, speaking of the importance of the Upper Room.
“All the saints drew from this source,” he says.
He then speaks about the openness of the “new family” of Christianity.
“From here the church goes forth, compelled by the life giving spirit,” he concludes.
Peres to meet with Eastern church leader Bartholomew I
The pope may get the headlines, but he’s not the only Christian bigwig in town. Bartholomew I, the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church who resides in Istanbul, is also in Jerusalem, where he met with Francis in Sunday.
On Monday morning, Bartholomew will powwow with President Shimon Peres. The two will discuss the importance of ties between Israel and the Orthodox church and expanding ties between Israel and the Greek Orthodox Church, according to a statement from the President’s Residence.
Scuffle between police, Christians caught on tape
Security around the pope’s visit has been notoriously tight in Jerusalem, but problems haven’t only centered around traffic.
A video, posted online by Palestinian outlet Ehna TV Monday, shows a group of people waving Vatican flags outside the Old City clashing with police, who are working to close the road.
The TV station claims the incident took place Monday afternoon, but police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld tells The Times of Israel that the only incident of that type occurred Sunday afternoon.
According to Ehna, the group was composed of Christians awaiting the pope’s visit.
In the video two people can be seen being detained. However Rosenfeld says they were only removed from the area. He says the gathering took place without a permit.
“There were a few scuffles,” he says.
There were no altercations or arrests related to the pope’s visit on Monday, Rosenfeld says.
Pope ends mass, heads to Mount Scopus
In the Cenacle, the pope’s mass comes to a close, essentially marking the end of Francis’s visit to Israel.
From Mount Zion, the pontiff will travel by car to Mount Scopus, where a waiting helicopter will take him to the airport for a goodbye ceremony before his flight home to the Vatican.
Francis greets faithful at Cenacle before ending trip
Scratch that last post. The mass has ended but Pope Francis returns to the Cenacle, now back in white robes, to shake hands with priests, nuns, prelates and others.
Each one takes turns thanking the pope for visiting, and he is treated to a round of applause.
Francis seems to be in a jolly mood, joking with people as he makes his way down a line, giving the event an intimate feel.
Looking back at pope’s jam-packed three-day trip
As the visit comes to a close, a look back at some of the more memorable moments from Francis’s journey to the region:
• In Jordan, the pope kicks off his trip Saturday by issuing a scathing rebuke to arms dealers. “We all want peace, but looking at the tragedy of war, looking at the wounded, seeing so many people who left their homeland who were forced to go away, I ask, ‘Who sells weapons to these people to make war?'” he asked. “This is the root of evil, the hatred, the love of money.”
• On Sunday morning, Francis flies by helicopter to Bethlehem, where he become the first pontiff to visit the Palestinian Authority before Israel.
• The pope then meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He calls the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians “unacceptable” and urges both sides to make sacrifices to reach peace.
• After meeting Abbas, Francis makes what will likely be remembered as his most memorable stop, an unplanned detour to the security barrier in Bethlehem, where he bows his head amid anti-Israel graffiti and says a prayer for there to be no need for the wall. He also refers to the “State of Palestine,” in historic move.
— Vatican – news (@news_va_en) May 25, 2014
• The pope then celebrates mass at Manger Square, making a plea for an end to exploitation of children amid a throng of cheering Christians.
• On Sunday afternoon, Francis takes a helicopter to Israel’s Ben-Gurion airport, where he is greeted by a gaggle of top government officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres. “Even if peace calls for sacrifices, the sacrifices of peace are preferable to the threat of war,” Peres says. Francis says “there is no other way” but to restart peace talks aiming for a two-state solution to the conflict, and also condemns terror attack at Belgium Jewish Museum.
• Francis meets with Eastern counterpart Bartholomew I at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, fulfilling the official reason for his visit. The two call for Christian unity.
— Ecumenical Patriarch (@EcuPatriarch) May 25, 2014
• On Monday, pope begins whirlwind tour of Jerusalem with trip to Temple Mount, where he makes calls for interfaith cooperation. “May no one abuse the name of God through violence,” he says.
• Pope then visits Western Wall, placing a note with “Our Father” prayer in Spanish in a crack.
• From Old City Francis travels to lay a wreath on grave of Theodor Herzl. While there, he agrees to add unscheduled stop at terror victims’ memorial, at Netanyahu’s behest. While visiting the site, pontiff is told that the reason for the security barrier is to prevent terror attacks. Pope makes plea for end to terror.
• Francis then visits Yad Vashem, where he kisses the hands of six survivors and calls Holocaust greatest evil known to humanity.
• Meeting with Israel’s chief rabbis, Francis called Jews the “older brothers” of Christians.
• At a Presidents’ Residence ceremony, fatigued-looking pope holds private meeting with Peres and is regaled by choir.
• In meeting with Netanyahu, prime minister once again defends security barrier to pope, telling him that “when incitement and terror against Israel stops, there won’t be the need for the security fence, which has saved thousands of lives.”
• Francis then prays with priests and seminarians at Church of Gethsemane, before planting “tree of peace,” echoing move by Paul VI 50 years earlier.
• After mass at Cenacle on Mount Zion, pope makes way to airport for farewell ceremony.
Times of Israel Staff/ AP
Farewell ceremony pushed forward
The pope was originally scheduled to leave Israel after a farewell ceremony at 8 p.m., but the goodbye has been moved up to 7:30, after things apparently went quicker than expected. More unplanned stops next time would keep that from happening.
Yad Vashem: Pope’s visit has special significance
In a statement, Yad Vashem notes that it is pleased with the visit of Pope Francis, expressing hope that it will contribute to Holocaust awareness.
“Yad Vashem attributes great importance and special significance to the visit of Pope Francis, which we hope will foster greater Holocaust awareness around the world,” the statement reads. “His words at Yad Vashem, together with his speech on arrival in Israel, express shame and pain, regarding the nadir that humankind reached with the crimes of the Shoah.”
Red carpet and jet await pope at airport
At Ben-Gurion airport, the red carpet is rolled out in front of an El Al jet waiting to take the pope back to Rome.
And unlike the case when he arrived by helicopter, this time the carpet is aligned with the pope’s conveyance.
Pope’s helicopter nears airport
The large delegation of officials and journalists that accompanied the pope to Israel now boards the jumbo jet, as the pope’s helicopter from Jerusalem prepares to touch down on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion.
Pope arrives at airport
Netanyahu and Peres now arrive on the tarmac, as the pope drives up to the red carpet for the farewell ceremony.
He then makes his way to the plane, flanked by Netanyahu and Peres, who joke with him.
Pope says goodbye to Israeli officials
Peres and Netanyahu greet a group of church dignitaries, as Francis awkwardly looks on.
The pope then bids farewell to a group of Israeli officials, shaking their hands one by one.
Netanyahu to pope: ‘We’ll pray for you, you pray for us’
As they make their way to the plane, Netanyahu and Francis get into a heated conversation while Peres shuffles alongside them.
They stop in front of the airplane for photos.
Francis then shakes Peres’s hands, and then Netanyahu’s, who tells him: “We’ll pray for you, you pray for us.”
With that the pope begins a solid ascent of the stairs up to the plane. before waving goodbye.
Pope on plane as visit ends
A shot of Pope Francis on the plane just before it leaves Israel. He appears to be reading a newspaper.
This marks the end of our liveblog coverage of Pope Francis’s trip to Israel and the region. We thank you for tuning in.
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