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The upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI is being planned at unprecedented speed. Normally a visit takes a year if not longer to plan. Speaking with Father Eunam Kelly, who oversees pilgrimage for the  Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem, I asked him why the Pope was coming here on such short notice.

 

He returned my question with "Do you have children?"

 

"Yes, I have 4" I answered.

 

"How old are they," he asked.

 

"They are 17, 14, 12, and 8, " I replied.

 

"Do you want to see them?", he asked.

 

"Of course", I answered,

 

 

"Well, the Holy Father wants to see his children too." he explained, "its that simple." he said.

 

He explained that this visit was pure and simple - the Pope wants to visit with the Christian communities of the Holy Land, the most significant of which are located in the Galilee, Jerusalem and in Bethlehem, situated just southeast of Jerusalem in the Palestinian Territories. The Christian population in the territories have been declining, particularly since the second intifada while in Israel, the Christian population as actually grown. Nevertheless, the Christian communitities are not strong economically, and the Vatican wants to do what it can to raise the awareness and further the interests of these communities. Israel's Christian population numbers approximately 140,0

The Israel Ministry of Tourism officially announced the upcoming itinerary for Pope Benedict's trip to the Holy Land. The Papal delegation with is to include 40 representatives from the Vatican and approximately 70 representatives of th foreign media, will arrive on May 11th. The Pope will meet with the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barakat, local leaders, President Shimon Peres as well as the Council of Religious Community Leaders in Israel (the Chief Rabbis, the President of the Moslem Religious Court of Appeals, Christian religious leaders and the heads of the Druze Community). The Pope will also meet with leaders of the Palestinian Authority Mohammed Abbas during his visit to Bethlehem on May 13, 2009. The official itinerary is posted below: •

 

May 11, 2009 - Pope to arrive in Israel; official ceremony with President Shimon Peres and visit to Yad Vashem Martyrs' and Heroes' Memorial of the Holocaust. Pope Bernedct XVI will also meet with the Council of Religious Commuity Leaders in Israel. In the evening there will be an Interfaith Dialogue meeting at Notre Dame Center.•

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