Pope lands in Bethlehem, nod to Palestinian state

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Pope Francis waves at audience members after his arrival at Amman’s international stadium in Jordan, Saturday, May 24, 2014. Pope Francis called on Saturday for an “urgent” end to the Syrian civil war and lamented the refugee crisis it has spawned as he opened a three-day trip to the Middle East. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)

Pope Francis waves at audience members after his arrival at Amman’s international stadium in Jordan, Saturday, May 24, 2014. Pope Francis called on Saturday for an “urgent” end to the Syrian civil war and lamented the refugee crisis it has spawned as he opened a three-day trip to the Middle East. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)

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BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — Pope Francis has landed in the West Bank town of Bethlehem in a symbolic nod to Palestinian aspirations for their own state as he prepared for a busy second day of his Mideast pilgrimage.

Previous popes have always come to the West Bank after first arriving in Tel Aviv, Israel. Francis though landed Sunday at a Bethlehem helipad from Jordan and immediately headed into a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. In its official program, the Vatican referred to Abbas as the president of the “state of Palestine.”

Francis is expected to repeat the Vatican’s call for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his meetings with Abbas and later upon his arrival in Israel.

Associated Press

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