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(ROME) -- Pope Francis will travel to the Middle East on Saturday. The visit will mark the first time a rabbi and a Muslim leader have been included in the official papal entourage.
The pope leaves Rome for Jordan on May 24, before proceeding to Bethlehem and Jerusalem. With him will be Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka, who co-wrote a book with Francis, and Sheikh Omar Abboud, an Argentine Muslim leader.
During the visit, the pope will meet with Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to further stress reconciliation among different religions.
The pope has insisted the visit is religious, not political. Analysts point out one motivation for the trip is to support Christians in the Middle East, who are often under threat of extremist violence. But they also say that the pope will try to do his best to assist the peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
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