Middle East prepares for papal visit

The pope's visit is regarded as religious, not political in nature.
By Ed Adamczyk   |   May 22, 2014 at 2:52 PM   |   Comments

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JERUSALEM, May 22 (UPI) -- Israelis and Palestinians are completing preparations for a visit this weekend by Pope Francis.

The pope will fly from Rome to Jordan Saturday to begin the three-day visit, and will travel to Bethlehem, in the Palestinian territories, before visiting Jerusalem.

Large banners have been hung in Bethlehem's Manger Square, adjacent to the Church of the Nativity, where the pope will celebrate a mass Sunday, and large portraits of the pope and Palestinian leaders have been erected near the main Israeli checkpoint entrance to the city.

Festive preparations in Jerusalem have been overshadowed by an increased security presence, with 8,000 additional police officers mobilized during the visit.

Police barriers around Jerusalem's Old City are numerous, as are Israeli, Vatican and Palestinian flags installed by local government.

Israeli police placed three people, described as young, Jewish extremists, under house arrest for suspected plans to disrupt the pope's visit, police said. Restriction orders were previously placed on two Jewish seminary students at Mount Zion, where the pope will celebrate a mass at the seminary, where Jesus' Last Supper was conducted.

The ground floor of the building is regarded by Jews as the tomb of Kind David, which prompted protests linked to the visit.

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