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The BBC's Orla Guerin
"The Pope has waited twenty years to see this day"
 real 28k

The BBC's Barbara Plett in Amman
"King Abdullah welcomed the Catholic leader as a symbol of hope"
 real 28k

Monday, 20 March, 2000, 18:55 GMT
Pilgrim Pope appeals for peace
Pope Mount Nebo
John Paul II went directly to Mount Nebo
Pope John Paul II has made an appeal for peace at the start of an historic week-long pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the first by a pontiff since 1964.

"In this area of the world there are grave and urgent issues of justice, of the rights of people and nations, which have to be resolved for the good of all concerned and as a condition for lasting peace," he said after arriving in Jordan - the first stop of his visit.


Papal route
Mount Nebo and Madaba, Jordan
Wadi Al-Kharrar, where Christ was baptised
Basilica of the Nativity, Bethlehem
Dehisha refugee camp, Palestinian territories
Sermon Mount, Israel
Mass in the Basilica of the Annunciation, in Nazareth
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem
The pontiff travelled directly from Amman's airport to windswept Mount Nebo - holy to Christians, Muslims and Jews - where tradition says Moses first glimpsed the Promised Land.

About 20 children dressed in white and yellow sang hymns in Arab and Latin as the Pope got out of his car and walked slowly with a cane towards the Byzantine basilica at the top of the mount.

At one point, the 79-year-old Pope knelt, clasped his hands together in prayer and closed his eyes.


Mount Nebo
The Pope took a moment to reflect at the top of Mount Nebo
John Paul II appeared filled with emotion as he began a journey he has dreamed of making for years to retrace the footsteps of Jesus.

Previously, Palestinian-Israeli tensions and the uncertain future of Jerusalem have got the in way of his desire to visit the Holy Land.

"With our gaze directed toward Jerusalem, let us lift up our prayers to almighty God for the people living in the land of promise, Jews, Muslims and Christians," the Pope said.

"Bestow upon all who live here the gift of true peace, justice, fraternity," he prayed.

Itinerary

After visiting Mount Nebo, the Pope returned to Amman through the ancient town of Madaba, home to a 540AD mosaic map of the Holy Land.

On Tuesday, he will celebrate a mass at a sports stadium in the capital and visit Wadi al-Kharrar, one of two disputed sites of Christ's baptism, before flying to Israel for the second stage of his Holy Land pilgrimage.

His week-long trip will also take him to Israel and the Palestinian territories - culminating in final prayers at the site in Jerusalem where Christians believe Jesus was resurrected from the dead.

Balancing act

John Paul II will be only the second pope in history to go to Jerusalem - which both the Israelis and Palestinians claim as their capital.


Jordanian children welcomed the Pope
Jordanian children welcomed the Pope
The BBC's religious affairs correspondent says the visit to the Holy Land will be a delicate balancing act between his Christian mission and its political repercussions.

Every gesture the Pope makes will be analysed, and Palestinians and Israelis are already competing over what his presence in Jerusalem will imply.

The political tensions erupted on Monday, as Israel accused the Palestinians of trying to drag the Pope into a political feud after they called on him to champion their claims to Jerusalem.

Israeli cabinet minister Haim Ramon accused the Palestinians of "childish behaviour" after they staged a rally at Orient House, their unofficial headquarters in occupied east Jerusalem, to call on the pope to support their drive for an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

Faisal Husseini, the top PLO official for Jerusalem, responded by saying that Israel was trying to prevent Palestinians from celebrating the Pope's arrival.

Extensive security

As well as taking in holy sites, the pontiff will meet Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, tour a Palestinian refugee camp and pay a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

A key theme of the trip is how to improve relations among Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which all converge in Jerusalem's Old City.

The security operation for the visit is being described as the biggest Israel has ever organised for a foreign dignitary.

Israel is deploying 18,000 police officers and 4,000 soldiers, spending more than $8m on "Operation Old Friend".

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See also:

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