VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Sunday announced a trip to the Holy Land to boost relations with Orthodox Christians.
The three-day visit in May also underscores Francis’ close ties to the Jewish community, his outreach to Muslims, and the Vatican’s longstanding call for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Francis told thousands gathered in the rain for his weekly Sunday blessing that he would visit Amman, Bethlehem and Jerusalem from May 24 to 26. It is the second foreign trip of Francis’ pontificate, following his 2013 visit to Brazil.
Francis, an Argentine Jesuit, will be the fourth pope to visit the Holy Land since 1964, when Paul VI visited.
"On an educational level, gay unions raise challenges for us today which for us are sometimes difficult to understand," Francis said in a speech to the Catholic Union of Superiors General in November, extracts of which were published on Italian media websites on Saturday.
"The number of children in schools whose parents have separated is very high," he said, adding that family make-ups were also changing.
"I remember a case in which a sad little girl confessed to her teacher: 'my mother's girlfriend doesn't love me'," he was quoted as saying.
The pontiff said educational leaders should ask themselves "how can we proclaim Christ to a generation that is changing?"
"We must be careful not to administer a vaccine against faith to them," the 77-year-old added.