Pope Francis to travel to Israel in May

Pope Francis I

Pope Francis I

The Pope is to travel to Israel in May for his first visit since becoming Pontiff.

Francis I announced his plans during his Sunday address to thousands of Catholics gathered in St Peter's Square.

Further details announced by the Vatican revealed that the trip to the Holy Land would be the Pope's first overseas tour of the year.

He will also travel to Bethlehem, in the West Bank, and Amman in Jordan during the three-day trip starting on May 24.

It is hoped that his time in Israel will be a further example of the strength of Pope Francis' ties to Jews.

When Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he had a close relationship with the local Jewish community for many years and received prizes for his work to improve understanding between Christianity and Judaism.

In 1973 he spent time in Jerusalem as the Yom Kippur War broke out.

The Pope will be the latest high-profile visitor to Israel. British Prime Minister David Cameron is due to travel to meet his Israeli counterpart next month, with German chancellor Angela Merkel also scheduled to visit in February.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is due in Jerusalem later this month.

Their trips come as US Secretary of State John Kerry attempts to push through a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

Both of the Pope’s direct predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, visited Jerusalem, the latter in 2009.

Last updated: 12:46pm, January 6 2014