Pope Francis Kicks Off Holy Land Visit in Jordan

May 24, 2014

Pope Francis arrived in Amman, Jordan on Saturday morning, kicking off a jam-packed three-day trip to the Holy Land.

In his first official visit to the region, the Pontiff will meet with King Abdullah II, then celebrate mass at the International Stadium, visit the site of Jesus’ baptism, and meet with refugees from neighboring Syria and Iraq. On Sunday, he will take a helicopter to Bethlehem in the West Bank, then head to Jerusalem later that night.

As TIME’s Elizabeth Dias writes, the Pontiff’s reputation as a trend-bucker will be on display throughout the trip. He has refused to use a bulletproof car and is traveling with an imam and a rabbi, marking the first time an official papal delegation has included members of other faiths.

The Pope’s visit is under particular scrutiny from Palestinians, many of whom are Christian, who are hoping that he will spotlight the Israeli occupation. Francis has emphasized that the pilgrimage to the region is for “strictly religious” purposes, but his decision to fly directly into the West Bank rather than go through Israel’s security barrier from Jerusalem has already drawn note.

“We feel he has been able to speak about the poor in Latin America,” Naim Ateek, an Anglican priest, told TIME ahead of the trip. “Now we would like to see him speak about the oppressed in Palestine.”

Christians in the region are also hoping that the Pope’s visit might rejuvenate the dwindling minority of Christians in the region.

But the Pope, who was TIME’s Person of The Year in 2013, is set to meet with representatives of many faiths and groups. He is expected to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday and with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.

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