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Pope May Visit Israel in 2009

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Pope Benedict XVI may visit Israel in 2009, but nothing concrete has been decided.

General Director of the Vatican Father Federico Lombardi said Thursday that the Vatican and Israel had established “contacts at a diplomatic level to study the possibility of carrying out this trip next year.” But he said talks were at an early stage and declined comment on possible dates.

The Israeli Ambassador to the Holy See said discussions for such a visit had been initiated but “details were not yet settled.”

According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, plans were already fixed for a papal visit in May. However, Haaretz reported on Thursday, “Since the visit has not yet been publicly confirmed, no preparations are underway in the Foreign Ministry or the Vatican.”

The pope has had a longstanding invitation to visit Israel.

President Shimon Peres met “about two weeks ago” with the Apostolic Nuncio to Israel, who said Benedict “would respond positively” to the invitation, Haaretz reported.

Tensions have arisen in recent months between Israel and the Vatican over the Vatican’s plans to canonize the controversial wartime Pope Pius XII.

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