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.

Published in International

BETHLEHEM, West Bank - A long line of cars trailed down the road next to the Church of the Nativity as Franciscan Father Ibrahim Faltas helped coordinate the placement of the electricity generator for the May 25 papal Mass.

Published in A Holy Land pilgrimage

I have been living this last week in a convent with habited nuns who describe themselves as semi-contemplative. They are Bridgettine Sisters, a 20th century American revival of a Medieval Swedish order.

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.

Published in Guest Columnists

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

While Pope Francis says Mass in Manger Square, Bethlehem there will be peace talks in the Middle East.

If there's anything religion is not, it is most certainly not a refuge from politics. Pope Francis is still several days from arriving in the Holy Land, but the politics of his visit are already raging.

JERUSALEM - Ahead of Pope Francis’ visit, Jewish religious and nationalist groups plan to demonstrate May 22 to demand that the Israeli government not cede sovereignty or control of the Cenacle, traditionally considered the site of Jesus’ Last Supper.

Published in International

The last fully and completely Christian village in the Middle East is home of the only beer manufactured in the Palestinian Territories. Taybeh beer is named after the town of 1,300 Palestinian Christians within sight of the Dead Sea.

The first Chancellor of Germany, Otto von Bismark, asked how many soldiers the pope has. Nineteenth century politics could be like that. But it's probably the wrong question for this century. Syria, Iraq, even Palestinian intifadas that pit rocks and kids against the most modern military in the region have demonstrated the limitations of boots on the ground. 

May 15 was Nakba Day — not exactly a holiday in the Palestinian West Bank because few people can afford to take a day off work, but a day of commemoration.

In modern, democratic culture there's almost nothing worse than protecting the status quo. it is to be on the side of privilege; to stand against the excluded. There can be no doubt that's a bad thing.

The graffiti which has appeared on the walls of some Jerusalem churches in advance of Pope Francis' visit is nothing new. Which makes in no less ugly and no less crazy.

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis will be accompanied on his first visit to the Middle East by Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Muslim leader Omar Abboud — two friends from Buenos Aires.

Published in Vatican