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Canceling Pope’s Israel Trip ‘premature’

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Media speculation that Pope Benedict XVI is rethinking a trip to the Holy Land because of the current violence is “premature,” a Vatican spokesman said.

“It’s clear that (the Vatican) is following the situation, but it seems premature to say this incident is a determining or definitive factor,” Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi told Reuters.

But, he said, “The pope wants to make this trip” and contacts have been made to establish a draft program.

There has been no official announcement of a papal trip to the region, but reports in Israel and the Vatican said it would take place in May.

Meanwhile, the pope renewed calls for a truce. “The native land of Jesus cannot continue to be witness to so much bloodshed, repeating itself without end. I implore an end to that violence … and for a renewal of the truce in the Gaza Strip,” he told crowds in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday.

Benedict had already issued an appeal for peace in his Christmas message to the world.

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