The Amman stadium was abuzz with people on Friday preparing for Pope Francis’ mass on Saturday. The pontiff chose to kick off his three-day visit to the Holy Land in Jordan.
Following in the footsteps of former pontiffs he will also visit the river Jordan near the site where John the Baptist is believe to have baptised Jesus, before travelling to Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Having opted out of bullet-proof transport, security is tight.
“In terms of logistics all relevant agencies, security agencies as well as the city of Amman, are preparing all the necessary steps in order to make this visit a success,” said Minister of State for Media Affairs Mohammed Al Momani.
The Pope will be accompanied by a Rabbi and an Imam, the first time an official delegation has included members of another faith. He also chose to break with another tradition by visiting the West Bank ahead of Israel, though he emphasised the religious nature of his visit.
Another Catholic leader has been creating concern ahead of the Pope’s visit. Cardinal Bechara Rai, head of Lebanon’s Maronite Catholic church chose to join the Pope in Israel making him the first leader of the church to visit the country.
The Cardinal faced criticism from Hezbollah who said the visit would have “negative consequences” for Lebanon. It is illegal for Lebanese citizens to travel to Israel, a country which it considers an enemy of the state.