Al-Liqa’ Center for Religious and Heritage Studies in the Holy Land

A Panel titled:

Fifty Years between the Visit of Pope Paul VI
and the Visit of Pope Francis I to the Holy Land (1964-2014)

Bethlehem Hotel - Bethlehem

2 April 2014

Photo album
Panel program

Reprot from Abouna website about the panel

Tens of participants, Muslims and Christians, including religious leaders from all Churches, sisters and monks, academicians and political leaders were present at this unique event.

The inaugural speeches which were moderated by Dr. Geries S. Khoury began with a commentary by H.B. Patriarch Fu’ad Twal who stressed the importance of the Pilgrimage of Pope Francis I to the Holy Land in May 2014; for it will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Pilgrimage of Pope Paul VI to the Holy Land and his historical ecumenical meeting with The Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in 1964. It is expected that Pope Francis I will meet the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew.

Patriarch Twal focused as well on the works of Pope Paul VI in the areas of reconciliation and his United Nations, speech of 4 October 1965 in which he said: “No war after today…. For in war there is no winner or loser. All are losers.” Pope Francis I, likewise, led a campaign against war and destruction in Syria and he repeated the words of Pope Paul VI. The visit of three Popes to the Holy Land after the visit of Paul VI is a reminder and the dire need for peace and pilgrim’s visit to the Holy Land to know its living stones instead of its dead stones.


In addition, Patriarch Twal reminded all that Paul VI founded four institutions in the Palestine. Three of them are in Bethlehem and they are: Bethlehem University, The Ecumenical Institute – Tantur,  Effeta Institute and Abraham house in Jerusalem.

The Mufti of Bethlehem Governorate, Sheikh Abd Al-Majeed ‘Ata pointed out that all Palestinians, leadership and masses welcome the visit of Pope Francis I as previous popes were cordially welcomed as well. The Mufti of Bethlehem, likewise, stressed Christian Muslim unity in Palestine.

H. E. Msgr. Giuseppe Lazzarotto – Apostolic Delegate to Jerusalem, stressed the ecumenical nature of Pope Francis visit and added that the Pope will pray in Bethlehem and Jerusalem for peace. Preparations for the visit is underway by all sides to insure the success of the visit of his Holiness.

Dr. Geries S. Khoury of Al-Liqa’ hoped that this visit of the Pope Francis will achieve all its objectives in the religious, ecumenical and political sectors.

The first session of the panel was moderated by Dr. Khoury as well.

The first speaker, Fr. Dr. Rafiq Khoury, focused on the historical circumstances of the visit of Pope Paul VI in 1964. The Pope’s visit focused on the ecumenical and religious aspects. It took place at the time when the cold war was taking place. The mass media at the time was not present like today.


Fr. Dr. Rif’at Bader followed with a reading of Pope Paul VI’s speeches. He accompanied his presentation with historical pictures of the visit. Fr. Bader, Director of The Catholic Center for Media in Amman mentioned that he is publishing a book commemorating the visit of Pope Paul VI.

The first session was concluded by Fr. Dr. Frans Bowen who focused on the ecumenical importance of the visit of Pope Paul VI. ( Read the full text of Fr. Dr. Frans)

Following a coffee break the second session took place and was moderated by Mr. Mousa Darwish,deputy Director of Al-Liqa’ Center.

Fr. Dr. Jamal Khader was the first speaker who focused on the local church and its expectation from Pope Francis visit.

Dr. Bernard Sabella, on his part, stressed the expectations, political and social, from the visit of the pope. The Palestinian people have high hopes in this visit. The Pope will be a witness of the Separation Wall and the refugee problem.


The second session was concluded with a speech by Prof. Thiab Ayyoush - Vice President of Al-Liqa Board, who focused on the expectations from the visit of Pope Francis I concerning Christian – Muslim dialogue and a life together. This visit will witness the tight link between Christians and Muslims in Palestine and it will strengthen this relationship.

At the end all participants were thanked by Mr. Darwish and all were invited to a reception which took place in this occasion.