BETHLEHEM - The faithful began arriving in Manger Square four hours in advance of Pope Francis' appearance, waving flags, shaking hands, buzzing with excitement. With three hours to go the people are singing hymns.

BETHLEHEM, West Bank - Celebrating Mass a few steps from the spot traditionally believed to the birthplace of Jesus, Pope Francis said that the way society treats its young reveals its moral character.

Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are both on record accepting the invitation from Pope Francis to come and pray for peace at the Vatican.

BETHLEHEM - As workers continue to assemble the stage on which Pope Francis will celebrate Mass in Manger Square, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew visited the city of Jesus' birth, leading a procession of Orthodox bishops, priests and officials from the Palestinian Authority into the Church of the Nativity.

AMMAN, Jordan - Pope Francis began a densely packed visit to the Holy Land with a call for religious freedom in the Middle East, including respect for the right to change one's religion.

AMMAN, Jordan - Celebrating Mass on his first day in the Holy Land, Pope Francis said hope for peace in a region torn by sectarian conflicts comes from faith in God.

Pope Francis was barely off the plane in Amman, Jordan when he began to take on the hardest and most delicate issues in the Middle East – including refugees.

AMMAN, Jordan - Jordan's powerful and marginalized joined together at the banks of the River Jordan to welcome Pope Francis at the site believed to be where Jesus was baptized.

The Catholic mayor of Bethlehem, Vera Baboun, has issued a plea for "peace and justice" on the eve of the May 24-26 pilgrimage by Pope Francis to the Holy Land.

Published in International

BETHLEHEM - Come Sunday morning about 9,000 Christians who have been granted tickets will form Pope Francis' congregation on Manger Square in Bethlehem. Around, above and behind them will be as many as 800 journalists.

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The “principle purpose” of the May 24-26 visit of Pope Francis to the Holy Land is not a conventional pilgrimage, as conducted by John Paul II and Benedict XVI. It is to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the meeting between Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I.

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VATICAN CITY - Three months after he gave 19 new cardinals their red hats, Pope Francis gave new responsibilities to the 16 who are under the age of 80, including Quebec's Cardinal Gerald Lacroix.

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BETHLEHEM - Just like any parish decorating the church for a special occasion, Palestinians are decorating Bethlehem in advance of Pope Francis' visit on May 25. But these decorations are also a message to the world about the plight of Palestinians.

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BETHLEHEM - Catholic priests in the Palestinian Territories want Pope Francis to press Israel to allow greater freedom of movement, especially access to holy sites in Jerusalem, and they expect the issue to be addressed when the Pope meets with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem on May 26.

Published in International