Jorge Mario Bergolio ̶ now Pope Francis, and the first to bear that name ̶ is a good man. All that we read and hear about him attests to his humanity, his humility, his spirituality. He has no place in his life for vanity and outward show. During his 15-year tenure as Archbishop of Buenos Aires he travelled extensively around his diocese on the subway and by bus, regularly visiting the slums that surround the Argentinian capital. “My people are poor and I am one of them”, he said more than once, explaining his decision to live in an ordinary apartment and cook his own supper.
Elevated to the papacy in March 2013, on the unexpected retirement of Pope Benedict, Francis has decided that an early priority must be a pilgrimage to what is known in the Christian world as the Holy Land - in other words Israel and the Palestinian territories. He will be here from 24-26 of May and, characteristically, is insisting on using an open pope-mobile and an ordinary car on the trip, rather than the bullet-proof vehicles usually used by heads of state in the Middle East – a decision certainly causing the security services responsible for his safety a few headaches.
In coming to the Middle East, Francis inherits a legacy from three predecessor Popes who also visited the Holy Land. In part his pilgrimage is intended to mark the 50th anniversary of the first-ever journey
by a Pope to the region. Paul VI, who reigned from 1963 to 1978, made a lightning 11-hour trip to Jerusalem in January 1964 – ground-breaking, because he came before the landmark Nostra Aetate
declaration of 1965, which opened the way to Catholic-Jewish dialogue, and because at the time the Vatican did not recognize Israel.
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