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Plans for papal Holy Land visit underway

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ROME (JTA) — Vatican officials are planning Pope Benedict XVI’s spring trip to Israel, Jordan and the West Bank.

Monsignor Antonio Franco, the papal nuncio in Israel, told the Catholic news service SIR that the trip will be primarily "a pastoral visit" to local Catholic communities. This, however, did not exclude meetings with Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian political leaders.

In an interview with SIR published Friday, Franco said the focus of the trip would be "peace and reconciliation." So far, he said, there were no plans for the pope to try to visit Gaza. He said the pope will celebrate three main masses, in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the Galilee. The pope will also "meet leaders of other Christian denominations" as well and local Jewish and Muslim leader, he said.

The pope himself gave the first public confirmation of such a trip during his meeting Thursday at the Vatican with a delegation from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

No details on dates or schedule have been released, but various sources say the trip will take place in May.
 

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