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Inspiring New Wave of Catholic Travel

Pope Francis' historic visit to Israel's holy sites is likely to inspire a new wave of Catholics worldwide to visit Israel and experience firsthand the land that gave birth to the Bible, Jesus of Nazareth, and Christianity.

 Pope Francis visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Judaism's holiest site. The Western Wall is one of the last remnants of the Second Temple and has served as a place of Jewish prayer for almost two thousand years; for centuries it was known as "The Wailing Wall," in reference to Jews' mourning the destruction of The Temple. The Western Wall is the single most visited site in Israel.

At Mount Zion, Pope Francis gave a Holy Mass in the Room of the Cenacle, the traditional site of the upper room of the Tomb of King David on Mount Zion, and regarded as the site of The Last Supper.

The Pope's visit to the Via Dolorosa and Church of the Holy Sepulcher included an ecumenical meeting celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I. Pope Francis met privately with Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I and signed a joint declaration at the Apostolic Delegation; he also met privately with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I at the Greek Orthodox Church of Viri Galilaei on the Mount of Olives. The historic meeting commemorated the anniversary of the meeting in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I in 1964. Following the meeting, Pope Francis delivered a discourse at the Church of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives.

At the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, the papal visit began at the Hall of Remembrance, where the Pope participated in a memorial ceremony and met with Holocaust survivors. The Pope rekindled the Eternal Flame in the museum's Hall of Remembrance and laid a wreath in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.

The Israel Ministry of Tourism recently announced the winner of the Pope Francis in the Holy Land Competition. As part of the contest, travelers from around the world were invited to upload a fifteen-second video clip explaining why they wanted to visit the Holy Land and use the hashtag #popeintheholyland, with the winner selected from the top ten most liked videos. The winner, Gustavo Adolfo Franco Picaza of Venezuela, received an all-expenses paid trip to Israel during the week of Pope Francis' visit. Visit here to see the winning Instagram video.

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