Pope offers hope before Mideast trip

ROME (JTA) — Pope Benedict XVI said he wanted to share the "aspirations and hopes" as well as the "pains and struggles" of people in the Middle East.

The pope delivered a publicly broadcast message before leaving on his historic trip to the region. Benedict leaves Friday on a weeklong trip to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

In Wednesday’s publicly broadcast message, delivered in English following his weekly public audience at the Vatican, the pontiff directly addressed the people in those countries.

"I will be coming among you as a pilgrim of peace," he said.

The pope said that his primary intention was to visit Christian holy sites, but he made a point of stressing that interfaith dialogue also was a key concern.

"Among the many religious and civic gatherings which will take place over the course of the week will be meetings with representatives from the Muslim and Jewish communities with whom great strides have been made in dialogue and cultural exchange," he said.

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