Pope to Visit Holy Land in May

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Pope Benedict XVI said today that he would make the first papal trip in nine years and the second-ever official papal trip to Israel in May.

The Pope said he would stop at sites visited by Jesus -- including the site of Jesus' baptism on the banks of the Jordan River-- on the weeklong trip schedule to start on May 8, the Associated Press reported. 

He said he would pray for "the precious gift of unity and peace for the Middle East and all of humanity."

Benedict will start in Jordan and make his way to Israel and Palestine and, though a detailed schedule has not been released, officials in destination countries said the Pope will visit an Amman mosque, hold public mass in Jordan and Nazareth and make a stop at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.

Only one official papal visit to Israel has taken place before. In 2000, by Pope John Paul II made the trip, but in 1964 Pope Paul VI also made an unofficial visit.

Israeli President Shimon Peres called Benedict's trip "an important and thrilling event of the first order, that emanates a wind of peace and hope" despite the strained relations between Israel and the Holy See.

Benedict also spoke of his planned trip to Africa from March 17-13 and asked for spiritual support for his travels from those gathered in St. Peter's Square for the traditional noontime blessing.

The trip to Africa include stops in Cameroon and Angola where the Pope will meet with local bishops, Muslim representatives and women's rights advocates.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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