Jan. 5 - Pope Francis says he will make a three-day pilgrimage to the Middle East in May as he holds his first Sunday Angelus of the year. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: Pope Francis announced on Sunday (January 5) that he will visit Holy Land sites in Jordan, Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territories in May, his first trip to the area as pontiff. The May 24-26 trip to Amman, Jerusalem and Bethlehem will mark the 50th anniversary of a landmark trip there by Pope Paul VI in 1964, the first by a pope in modern times. Pope John Paul II visited in 2000 and Benedict XVI went in 2009. Francis, who has made many appeals for peace in the Middle East since his election in March, announced the trip to thousands of people in St. Peter's Square for his Sunday address. He was invited by both Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres. "Brothers and sisters, in the climate of joy, typical to the Christmas season, I wish to announce that from 24 to 26 of next May, God willing, I will be making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land," the pope said, prompting loud cheers from the large crowds. Many Christian Holy Land sites are in Israel's Galilee region but Bethlehem, revered by Christians as the birthplace of Jesus, is in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, in the Palestinian Territories. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus is said to have been buried and which the pope said he will visit, is in Jerusalem's Old City. The busy Christmas period was the first for Pope Francis as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. He is due to conduct Epiphany Mass on Monday morning at the Vatican.