.- Painters, workers and archeologists are among those making the final preparations for Pope Benedict XVI’s first visit to the Holy Land, which will take place May 8-15.
According to the EFE news agency, workers are busy painting the door frames and checking the drywall at the Upper Room. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher will also be closed in the coming days for preparations. At Mount Precipice, workers are building the platform from which the Pope will address thousands outside Nazareth.
There will be “three local choirs, one Maronite, one Melchite and one Latin, and at least one reading will be sung according to the Eastern Rite” during the May 14 Mass at Mount Precipice, said Fr. Ricardo Bustos of the Shrine of the Annunciation.
Rafi Ben Hur, the General Director of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, said, “We estimate that between 15 and 20 thousand pilgrims will come during the Pope’s visit, and that his visit will boost the number of pilgrims who visit the rest of the year to 200,000.”
John Seligman, an archeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority, who is charged with renovating the Upper Room, said the arrival of Benedict XVI “is a great opportunity to show the most important places of Christianity. We have cleaned the walls, repaired the bricks and patched the drywall, which was falling apart, so that the place will be presentable for the Pope’s visit.”
Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Custodian of the Holy Land, said the Pope’s visit shows that “despite the misunderstandings, the relationship with the Jewish world and the Muslim world are very important both for the Catholic Church and for the Pope personally.”
Israel will invest more than nine million dollars in renovating the places that will be visited by Pope Benedict XVI.