24 May 2014

Pope Francis apostolic visit to the Holy Land 2014 - "Ut unum sint"

Pope Francis is enroute to Jordan and the beginning of a very busy three day visit to the Holy Land, in a visit that will focus on Christian unity. As Catholic News Service put it recently:
The Vatican has emphasized that the pope’s main purpose on the trip is to meet in Jerusalem with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, considered first among equals by Orthodox bishops. The official logo for the papal visit is an icon of the Apostles Peter and Andrew, patron saints of the churches of Rome and Constantinople, joined in a fraternal embrace.
The pope will be visiting Jordan, Palestine and Israel and celebrate Mass in all three countries. He will meet a wide range of people, from heads of state and royalty to religious and refugees. It promises to be an extraordinary visit — in every sense of the term, a pilgrimage.
The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land (AOCTS) decided on the motto and logo for the Pope’s upcoming pilgrimage to the Holy Land at the meeting of the Assembly on March 11 and 12, 2014 in Tiberias. The motto for the pilgrimage is “So that they may be one”. The Holy Father has insisted that at the center of his pilgrimage will be the meeting with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and the heads of the Churches in Jerusalem. This is to commemorate and renew the commitment to unity expressed by Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople 50 years ago in Jerusalem.
This gives expression to the desire of the Lord at the Last Supper: “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23).
The logo also expresses this desire for unity, representing the embrace of Saint Peter and Saint Andrew, the first two disciples called by Jesus in Galilee. Saint Peter is the patron of the Church in Rome and Saint Andrew is the patron of the Church in Constantinople. In Jerusalem, in the Mother Church, they embrace. The two apostles are in a boat that represents the Church, whose mast is the Cross of the Lord. The sails of the boat are full of wind, the Holy Spirit, which directs the boat as it sails across the waters of this world.
The unity of Christians is a message of unity for all humanity, called to overcome the divisions of the past and march forward together towards a future of justice, peace, reconciliation, pardon and fraternal love.
Pope Francis (in what is becoming a personal tradition of this pontificate) made a private visit to the Roman Basilica of St. Mary Major on Friday morning to pray and entrust his Holy Land pilgrimage to Our Lady. After praying for 15 minutes before the image of the Madonna Salus Populi Romani, the Pope left a bouquet of roses in her honour.
Perhaps it would be helpful to join in prayer for the successful and safe conclusion of this pilgrimage:
Prayer for the pilgrimage of Pope Francis to the Holy Land
Heavenly Father, you never tire of being compassionate and loving. The successor of St. Peter plans to visit the Holy Land sanctified by your Son’s birth, baptism, teaching, death and resurrection. Be with him, sanctify him, and bless him. Spread the mantle of your kindness over every stage of his pilgrimage among us, that one may see in him a believing pilgrim, a wise teacher, and a humble leader.
Lord Jesus Christ, who prayed for the unity of your Church, saying: “May they all be one”, make the meeting in Jerusalem between the Holy Father and the Ecumenical Patriarch an incentive to increase our efforts for the unity of your children.
Make the encounter of the Pope with the political authorities fruitful for justice and peace. Protect all the residents of this land and the adherents of the religions of the Middle East that they may be in accord, dialogue and cooperation for the achievement of full citizenship.
Good Shepherd, whose image Pope Francis carries on his pectoral cross, walking in the spirit of humility with which you have graced him deepen within us the awareness of our Christian identity, that as true disciples, we may bear witness to your Good News and your resurrection in our churches, our society, and all the world, especially by serving the sick, the poor, and the refugees.
Bless, Lord Most Holy, this fourth papal visit to our Holy Land, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, all the saints of the Holy Land, and the two new saints, John Paul II and John XXIII. Amen.
 You can follow the Pope's visit on the following sites:
Official website of the visit from the Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries (Bishops) of the Holy Land - good site with a lot of information and background about the situation of Christians in the Holy Land
Official website of the visit by Patriarch Bartholomew

CNEWA (Catholic Near East Welfare Association) - Apostles of Unity in the Holy Land
Vatican News
Vatican Radio Facebook page
Rome Reports
Franciscan Media Centre and Terra Sancta News
Whispers in the Loggia
Catholic News Agency

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