Pope Benedict XVI
Photo: AFP

Pope to visit Bethlehem refugee camp

Latin patriarch says al-Aida camp symbolizes right of return, holds message of peace and justice

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem said Sunday that Pope Benedict XVI, who is scheduled to visit Israel soon, will tour and preach at "the al-Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, which symbolizes the right of return and holds a message of peace, brotherhood, and justice".


Fouad Twal, who is considered the second most important Christian figure for many keepers of the faith worldwide, also serves as president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Holy Land.


Twal says the preparations for the holy visit have nearly been completed, and called on members of the Christian faith to follow his holiness to Israel.


The pope is scheduled to arrive on May 11 for a tour that includes Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Bethlehem as well as the nearby refugee camp, al-Aida.


According to prior agreements the stage hosting the pope at al-Aida was intended to be built in a schoolyard, but Ynet has discovered that the Palestinians violated these agreements by constructing it near the separation fence. A demolition warrant was subsequently issued by the Civil Administration, and the stage must be relocated.


"The camp is a camp that symbolizes the refugees' suffering and their right of return," Twal said. "The fence will be seen from the location of the pope's seat, and in any case he will enter and exit the district of Bethlehem through the fence."


The Latin Patriarch added that he hoped to see cooperation on all sides in order for the tour to be successful. Regarding the call by the Islamic Movement's northern branch to boycott the special mass in Nazareth, he said all were welcome to attend the ceremony.


"The pope has decided to visit the holy land and we have told him, 'Welcome'. If Nazareth does not have the time or the ability we can hold the visit in Haifa. But Nazareth has proved that it can do this and certainly it is the holy city," he said.


פרסום ראשון: 04.26.09, 20:17
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