Pope Francis will be making his first visit to Israel in March of 2014. The pontiff will be traveling with close friend Rabbi Abraham Skorka and will also visit the West Bank.
According to The Jerusalem Post, the Pope told Skorka he had a life long dream of visiting the Holy Land, including Bethlehem and Israel.
The newly elected Pontiff has surprised many with his way of thinking and openness to the otherwise marginalized within society.
He is making an effort to embrace minority groups such as gays, the poor, and also members of other religions. Francis has made a point to extend an olive branch to not only Jews, but members of other faiths in the few months he has been head of the Catholic Church.
With his modest way of living, Pope Francis is leading by example and practicing what he preaches and in the process, breaking down barriers.
Pope Francis dreams of embracing his good friend Rabbi Skorka in front of the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem to dispel any feelings of antisemitism on the part of Catholics and send a clear message of where his heart is.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein visited the Vatican last week and invited the Pope to visit the Holy Land and be his personal guest in the Knesset, the legislative branch of the Israeli government.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Shimon Peres also extended an invitation for Francis to visit when he was in Rome saying, “I am expecting you in Jerusalem, not just me but the whole country of Israel.”
“I’ll come, I’ll come,” Pope Francis responded.
Reports in Israel are calling the visit a pilgrimage in which the Pope and Argentinian Rabbi Skorka are bringing a message of reconciliation between Judaism and Christianity.
During a meeting with representatives of the Jewish international community at the Vatican in June, Pope Francis condemned antisemitism saying, “because of our common roots, a true Christian cannot be anti-Semitic.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will visit the Vatican in a few days and stated he will make an official invitation to the Pope to visit Bethlehem in March, according to reports from Channel 2.
Both of Francis’ predecessors, Benedict XVI and John Paul II visited Israel during their time as leaders of the Roman Catholic Church.
Pope Francis became the first Pontiff to succeed a living Pope in February, when Benedict resigned, he is also the first Latin American and first Jesuit to be elected Pope.