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No papal visit to Israel in ’08

The Vatican played down expectations that Pope Benedict would visit Israel soon.

Israeli officials have courted Benedict with invitations to repeat the 2000 Holy Land tour of his predecessor, John Paul II, but the Vatican said Monday there would be no such visit in 2008.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi in a briefing to reporters cited the “general situation of pacification” as the reason for the delay, as well as unresolved bilateral issues with Israel.

Lombardi appeared to be referring to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian fighting, as well as the Vatican’s request for more lenient Israeli entry regulations for Catholic clergy from Arab countries.

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