JERUSALEM (Dec. 18)
President Zalrman Shazar and members of the Israel Cabinet will welcome Pope Paul VI at a small archaeological museum building at Meggido, in northern Israel, where the Pontiff will cross into Israel from Jordan, it was reported here today. The Pope will visit Christian Holy Places in Israel on January 5 as part of his unprecedented visit to the Holy Land.
This welcoming arrangement reportedly was worked out at the Vatican Initially, it was reported that the Pope planned to cross through the Mandelbaum Gate from Jordan-held old Jerusalem into new Jerusalem, Israel’s capital. It was assumed that the change in plans stemmed from Arab pressures and possible Vatican doubts that the original plans might have been interpreted as a Vatican recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
After visiting Nazareth and Capernaum, the Pontiff will proceed to Jerusalem where he will ascend Mount Zion to visit the Cenaculum, the site of the Last Supper. It was reported here that the Pope has expressed a desire to bless the Christian community of 4,000 in Jerusalem. Since Mount Zion cannot hold such a crowd, the ceremony will be held in one of Jerusalem’s major squares. A major open mass will be held in Nazareth.
The welcoming ceremony at Meggido will last ten minutes, during which President Shazar will deliver a brief welcoming address and present the Pope with a specially-minted gold Pilgrims Medallion set in olive wood. Similar medallions will be presented to the Cardinals accompanying the Pontiff.
There were unconfirmed reports that President Shazar might include in his welcome address a request for the Pope’s intervention to open Jewish Holy Places in old Jerusalem. Jordan has refused since the signing of the Israel-Jordan Mixed Armistice agreement in 1949 to abide by a provision in that pact stipulating free access to those places.
A Herut spokesman raised the question as to whether President Shazar should welcome the Pope outside of Jerusalem. Official sources stressed, however, that courtesy required that the Pope be greeted at whatever point of entrance into Israel he chose but the same sources conceded that the route chosen was not accidental.