Monday, the second day of his Holy Land pilgrimage, Pope France has scheduled a public Mass in Bethlehem’s Manger Square after meeting Palestinian Authority leaders including Mahmoud Abbas. He will be presented with a Cross symbolically filled with stones from the Separation Wall, which Israel built to stop three years of Palestinian suicide attacks on its schools and town centers.
The Pope will then visit the Church of the Nativity and meet with five Palestinian Christian refugee families, who were especially selected to relate tales of Israeli persecution.
In the afternoon, he will be welcomed on arrival at Ben Gurion airport by President Shimon Peres and flown by helicopter to Mt Scopus for another welcoming ceremony.
His visit to Jerusalem, another religious and national minefield after the West Bank, will start Sunday evening with an ecumenical event at the Church of the Sepulcher with heads of the various Christian churches and communities.
Thousands of police have been called up to secure his visit and are closing off many streets of the capital.
The emotions inflamed by the visit were expressed early Sunday, when a group of young Israelis barricaded themselves in the traditional Tomb of David on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. They were protesting reports that the building, whose upper floor is reputed to hold the Room of the Last Supper, would be presented to the Christian Church. Twenty-eight protesters were detained after attacking the police.