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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