Pope Francis to visit Holy Land in May

Posted at 2:36 PM, Jan 05, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-05 11:37:59-05

(CNN) — Pope Francis announced Sunday his first trip as pontiff to the Holy Land in May.

Speaking during his weekly Sunday blessing in Vatican City, he said he will visit Jerusalem, Bethlehem in the West Bank and the Jordanian capital, Amman.

The visit will take place May 24-26.

“In the climate of joy, typical of this Christmas season, I wish to announce that from 24 to 26 May next, God willing, I will make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land,” the pope told crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

“At the Holy Sepulchre we will celebrate an Ecumenical Meeting with all the representatives of the Christian Churches of Jerusalem, together with Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.”

His announcement was posted on the Vatican Radio website.

“As of now I ask you to pray for this pilgrimage,” the Pope said.

January 5 marks the 50th anniversary of a historic meeting in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and the then-spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians Patriarch Athenagoras.

Sunday’s announcement was made just as the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wrapped talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in a new bid for peace.

Kerry said earlier he was making progress in Middle East peace talks, stressing the Obama administration “is committed to putting forward ideas that are fair, that are balanced, and that improve the security of all of the people of this region.”