VATICAN CITY - Given the Holy Land's long and complex history of military, religious and cultural conflict, the run-up to Pope Francis' May 24-26 pilgrimage was inevitably marked by fears it would be marred by controversy — or worse.

Pope to meet with sex abuse victims for first time in June

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Pope Francis will meet with a group of sex abuse victims for the first time in June, he told reporters May 26.

A papal pilgrimage of peace

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JERUSALEM - The Pope had a simple plan as he set out for the Holy Land with a rabbi and a Muslim sheik in tow. But simple plans can be difficult to execute.

On last morning in Holy Land, Pope reaches out to Muslims, Jews

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JERUSALEM - Pope Francis spent the last morning of his three-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land meeting with Muslims and Jews and calling for closer relations among the three major monotheistic religions as the basis for peace in the region.

Fifty years later, Pope and patriarch meet again in Jerusalem

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JERUSALEM - Half a century after a historic encounter between their predecessors, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew met in the same place to seek inspiration for Christian unity at the site of Christ's death and resurrection.

Pope Francis thanks religious for their presence in Holy Land

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JERUSALEM - Pope Francis dedicated his final hours in Jerusalem to time with local Catholics, reminding them that despite difficulties, God is always by their side.

Pope invites Israel, Palestine leaders to Vatican

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BETHLEHEM - Pope Francis has offered his home, the Vatican, to Israeli President Shimon Perez and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to pray together for peace.

Crowds gather early in anticipation of Pope appearance

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BETHLEHEM - The faithful began arriving in Manger Square four hours in advance of Pope Francis' appearance, waving flags, shaking hands, buzzing with excitement. With three hours to go the people are singing hymns.

In Bethlehem, near site of Christ's birth, pope speaks out for children

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BETHLEHEM, West Bank - Celebrating Mass a few steps from the spot traditionally believed to the birthplace of Jesus, Pope Francis said that the way society treats its young reveals its moral character.

Israel, Palestine leaders accept invite to Vatican

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Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are both on record accepting the invitation from Pope Francis to come and pray for peace at the Vatican.

Ecumenical Patriarch visits Bethlehem ahead of Pope meeting

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BETHLEHEM - As workers continue to assemble the stage on which Pope Francis will celebrate Mass in Manger Square, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew visited the city of Jesus' birth, leading a procession of Orthodox bishops, priests and officials from the Palestinian Authority into the Church of the Nativity.

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