The program for this visit is in its final stages and plans that the pope will be welcomed among the crowd divided into two wings with a children’s choir singing songs of welcome as well as murals and banners and Palestinian and Vatican flags. The visit is to last at least one hour. It will begin along the Security Barrier that Israel has built around all Palestinian localities to protect itself from terrorist attacks and which is the source of endless problems of movement for the Arab population. It will be followed by an exhibition which through images will seek to highlight the reality of the Palestinian situation and its history; a speech by the president of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas, and then an address by Benedict XVI.Meanwhile, Breuer Press International has details on President Shimon Peres' official reception for Pope Benedict on May 11th:
The camp inhabitants want to present the pope with two gifts: a chain with a key attached to it, a link – they say - between the keys of St Peter and the “key to return” of the refugees (many refugees have kept the keys to their homes from which they were expelled or forced to flee, as a sign of their hope to go home). The second gift is a map of Palestine sculpted in Tiberiad rock.
For his visit to Bethlehem, the Mayor (a Christian) asked a local Muslim artist to inscribe and decorate a copy of the Gospel of Saint Luke. The artist 51 year-old Abu Sima, is a refugee who originally fled Iraq, the Jordan and who now resides in Bethlehem.
“Through this humble work – he declares – I wish to send out a message that the Muslim artist is a pacifist. And this despite the attacks that are carried out in various parts of the world by the hands of extremists, who exploit our religion for their own ends”.
The Pope will arrive at the President’s Residence at 16:05 and will be received by the President on a red carpet. Two children, a Christian and a Jew from Nazareth and Upper Nazareth, respectively, will present the Pope with a basket of fruit and will welcome him in English in Hebrew. The Pope will also be presented with the “Seven Species” of plants named in the Bible and other Israeli-made produce, including a new strand of wheat developed by the Volcani Center and named Benedict XVI after the Pope.
After the Pope enters the President’s Residence, the two will hold a working political meeting in the conference room. During the meeting, President Peres is expected to raise the strengthening of ties between Israel and the Vatican, the advancement of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, and the readiness of the people of Israel to make peace, and he will ask the Pope to increase his involvement in the making of peace in the Middle East. He will note that there is a special role for religious leaders in bringing about peace and breaking the connections between religion and terror.
Immediately following the meeting, there will be a tree-planting ceremony for a tree of peace - an olive tree in the garden of the President’s Residence, after which will begin the aforementioned ceremony with 700 representatives of all different walks of life in Israel.
At the celebratory reception, the Pope and President Peres will deliver speeches. This will be followed by an artistic event with the participation of Children’s Voices for Peace, a choir from the diverse community of Jaffa consisting of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian children who will sing the song “Hallelujah.”