10-February-2009 -- Catholic News Agency |

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Pope Planning Spring Visit to Holy Land

Rome, Feb 10, 2009 (CNA).- Two months after his trip to Africa, the Holy Father is scheduled to visit the Middle East where he will see the place of Jesus’ baptism, a mosque in Jordan, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, as well as Bethlehem and Nazareth.

Though the trip has not yet officially been announced, an article in the Italian daily, Il Giornale written by Vatican expert Andrea Tornielli reports that Pope Benedict’s May 8-15 travels are scheduled to begin in Amman, Jordan where he visit a mosque as well as Mt. Nebo, a site that John Paul II stopped at in 2000.

The Italian daily also notes that the trip could be postponed due to violence in the region. However, as of now, the Holy Father is scheduled to celebrate Mass for Catholics in Amman on May 10 before visiting the site of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan.

The following day, the Pope plans to travel to Tel Aviv, Israel to first visit with the Israeli president before going to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum.

The visit to the museum will be carefully watched due to the recent debacle surrounding Society of St. Pius X Bishop Richard Williamson and also because of the controversy surrounding a caption of Pope Pius XII at the museum.

The caption reads: "Even when reports about the murder of Jews reached the Vatican, the pope did not protest, either verbally or in writing. In December 1942, [Pius XII] abstained from signing the Allied declaration condemning the extermination of the Jews. When Jews were deported from Rome to Auschwitz, the pope did not intervene.

"The pope maintained his neutral position throughout the war, with the exception of appeals to the rulers of Hungary and Slovakia toward its end. His silence and the absence of guidelines obliged churchmen throughout Europe to decide on their own how to react."

The caption has been contested by the Vatican, most recently last October when Fr. Federico Lombardi, the spokesman for the Vatican press office said, "As is already known, the Holy See’s representative to Israel has in the past raised objections concerning the caption about Pius XII in the Yad Vashem Museum. It is, therefore, to be hoped that this be the subject of a new, objective and profound examination on the part of the museum management.”

Il Giornale also reports that over the days of May 12 – 15, Pope Benedict will meet with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and later with the two Grand Rabbis of Israel. He will also visit a Palestinian refugee camp, Nazareth, Bethlehem and the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

The Pope’s trip is expected to be confirmed by early March.

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