BETHLEHEM, May 13, 2014 – (WAFA) – Spokesman for the Pope’s visit to Palestine Rev. Jamal Khader stated Tuesday that preparations are underway for the Pope Francis upcoming visit to Jerusalem and Bethlehem scheduled on May 25 and 26.
Khader stated that a Latin Patriarchate-appointed commission in cooperation with the Presidential Higher Committee are preparing for the Papal visit and noted the extensive work being undertaken in Manager Square to build a stage for the papal-led mass to be attended by President Mahmoud Abbas as well as tens of thousands of believers in Bethlehem.
Khader added that after the mass the pope is schedule to meet with and listen to five Palestinian families, including families who lost family members after being killed by Israeli forces, prisoners’ families and a Gazan family, all of whom represent the Palestinian people’s suffering.
He confirmed that Pope Francis would meet Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the 50th occasion of the meeting in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher and then meet with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.
Khader underscored the instrumental role of papal visit in terms of bringing the Palestinian cause to the forefront and highlighting the Palestinian people’s suffering.
Pope Francis would be accompanied by Maronite Patriarch Mar Bishara al-Raʻi, Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria Ibrahim Sidrak, Syrian Catholic Patriarch of Antioch Mar Ignatius III Younan and Chaldean Patriarch Mar Louis Saku.
Commenting on the recent ‘price tag’ attacks against Palestinian Christians and Muslims, Khader stated: “These groups are creating a wave of hatred against non-Jews. The Israeli police (security) could not stop these attacks since the perpetrators have cover-up from right-wing parties in Knesset.”
Khader affirmed that Palestinian Christians are subject to an Israeli systematic attack citing ‘price tag’ attacks against churches and monasteries, international media reports depicting Christians as leading a prosperous life and enjoying their rights in Israel and campaign to enlist Christians in Israeli army.
Commenting on Israeli campaign to enlist Christians in Israeli army, Khader stated that it provides a clear indication for discrimination in Israel; instead of granting rights to all its citizens, Israel makes granting rights to Christians contingent upon enlistment in army.