Pope could visit Israel, Jordan in May 2009

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Pope Benedict XVI may visit Jordan on May 8 and Israel on May 11-15 next year, Italy's Il Foglio newspaper said on Tuesday.
VATICAN, December 16 (RIA Novosti) - Pope Benedict XVI may visit Jordan on May 8 and Israel on May 11-15 next year, Italy's Il Foglio newspaper said on Tuesday.

The pope has long been expected to pay a visit to the Holy Land. However, the trip has yet to be officially announced.

During the visit, he is expected to meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Palestinian West Bank authorities and conduct services in Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem. The pope will also visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

The Vatican said on October 18 that the pope wanted to visit Israel "as soon as possible," but could not because of the attitudes of Jewish leaders toward the Nazi-era Pope Pius XII.

Pius XII, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, has been accused of turning a blind eye to the Holocaust and refusing to publicly condemn Nazi atrocities against Jews.

At the October 9 event marking the 50th anniversary of Pius XII's death, Pope Benedict backed his beatification - the last step before sainthood - saying that he "often acted in secret and in silence" to defend Jews during the Holocaust. However, as Pope Benedict XVI has not yet signed the beatification document.

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