Pope to Visit Jordan during Holy Land Trip

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Pope Francis will visit Jordan during a trip to the Holy Land next year, the state Petra news agency reported on Saturday, citing a senior Vatican source.

"During his (August) visit to the Vatican, King Abdullah II invited His Holiness to visit Jordan," Petra quoted Vatican foreign affairs official Dominique Mamberti as saying in Amman.

"We are currently looking at the preparations in detail for the visit, which should take place next year.

"The pope's visit to the Holy Land will begin in Jordan," Mamberti said after meeting Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.

He said Pope Francis considers Jordan to be "a holy land, and one that respects religious pluralism... necessary to create a climate of peace not only in the Arab world but also across the entire Middle East."

During an audience at the Vatican on October 17, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas invited Pope Francis to the Middle East, saying he would "walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ".

The invitation from Abbas followed one from Israeli President Shimon Peres earlier in the year.

Francis had already said he would like to visit the Middle East in 2014, but the Vatican has not yet officially confirmed the trip, despite a report by Israel's Channel 2 television that it will take place in March.

Francis has said he would like to visit the patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians.

Last month, Abbas was the fourth Middle East leader to meet Pope Francis after Peres, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and the Jordanian monarch.

Unconfirmed information from Roman Catholic sources in the Holy Land indicated a possible papal visit to a refugee camp for Syrians in Jordan.

Maronite sources have also hoped for a possible trip to Lebanon to preach reconciliation in the region.

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