Pope begins Mideast tip

ROME (JTA) — Pope Benedict XVI began a historic trip to the Middle East onFriday, flying to Jordan for a weeklong journey that will include Israel and the West Bank.

The pope described his trip as a "pilgrimage of peace" at a time of continuing tension in the region. The Vatican said his main goal is to demnstrate support for local Christians, but he also wants to foster dialogue with Muslims and Jews.

He is expected to call for dialogue and reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis and also voice support for a Palestinian state.

The pope will spend three days in Jordan before flying to Israel on May 11. He will meet with political leaders, visit holy sites linked to the life of Jesus and celebrate open-air masses for local Christians. This is Benedict’s first visit to the Middle East as pope, and the first papal trip to the region since Pope John Paul II traveled there in 2000.

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