Jordan's King Abdullah and Queen Rania walk with Pope Francis during a welcoming ceremony in Amman, May 24, 2014. REUTERS/Ali Jarekji
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Pope Francis called for urgent steps to end Syria's three-year-old civil war as he arrived in neighboring Jordan Saturday, starting a Middle East trip aimed at bringing hope to the region's dwindling Christian population.In Israel and the occupied West Bank, where the pope will travel on Sunday and Monday, more Palestinian Christians are looking to leave, accusing Israel of eroding their economic prospects and hobbling their freedom of movement.Francis, leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, will also use the trip to appeal to members of all religions to work together for peace. Jordan, a majority of whose population is of Palestinian origin, signed a peace accord with Israel 20 years ago.To underscore his conviction that all three great monotheistic faiths can live together in the region and help to tackle the political stalemate, Francis has enlisted a rabbi and an Islamic leader to be part of a traveling papal delegation for the first time. Francis, the first non-European pope in 1,300 years, will head on to Israel Sunday night for a 32-hour visit packed with 16 events.The last papal pilgrimage to the Holy Land was in 2009 by Francis's predecessor, Pope Benedict.
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