It is normal for popes to be loved and followed by Catholics. But the visit of Pope Francis to Jordan and Palestine has shown a Christian leader who is extremely popular in two countries where the Christian populations are quite small. Pope Francis’ visit to the Holy Land began in Jordan where a mass was attended by 30,000 believers, including many coming from nearby Lebanon, followed by a visit in the company of King Abdullah to the baptismal site of Bethany beyond the Jordan.
Jordan was instrumental in helping the pontiff avoid entering Palestine through the controversial Israeli-controlled Jordan River bridge. Taking advantage of the peace treaty with Israel, Jordanians facilitated the wish of the Vatican for the pope and his entourage not to cross any Israeli military checkpoints, by providing military helicopters for transportation to Bethlehem.