JERUSALEM – Everyone is touting the visit this weekend of Pope Francis to the Holy Land as a trip of firsts – first time visiting as pope, first time recognizing the State of Palestine, first time laying a wreath at the grave of Herzl, the founder of Zionism, first time traveling with non-Christians -- but the current pontiff might have trouble living up to the standard set by his predecessor Pope Paul VI, who, according to historic footage, was the first Catholic leader to set foot in the Holy Land in almost 2000 years when he arrived here in January 1964.
According to two videos uploaded onto YouTube capturing Pope Paul VI’s visit to the region 50 years ago, he was also the first Vatican leader to ever fly on an airplane and the first to leave Italy in 150 years.
The first video comes from the archives of Footage Farm which makes public domain material from the U.S. National Archives, the Library of Congress and many other public sources available to the public.
This second video below was uploaded by British Pathé and was taken from the archives of Pathe News, one of the largest archives of historical news footage on Youtube.
During his historic visit here, when he spent time in Jordan, the West Bank, which was at that time part of Jordan and in the young State of Israel, Pope Paul VI also made history by meeting with Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I. The two churches had been at odds for more than 900 years.
On his trip to Jerusalem on Sunday evening, Pope Francis will commemorate Pope Paul VI’s historic visit and strengthen the union between East and West by meeting and praying with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew.
The Ecumenical Patriarch, who arrived in Israel on Friday, represents some 300 million Orthodox Christians. He was the first head of the Orthodox Church to be present at a papal inauguration when Francis became pope last year.
This weekend’s historic meeting between the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch will include a joint prayer session at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built on the hill where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and buried before rising from the dead.