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Pope Considering Visit to Israel in 2009


A Vatican spokesman says Pope Benedict may travel to Israel sometime next year.

Father Federico Lombardi says Thursday that the Vatican and Israel have established "diplomatic contacts" to study the possibility of a visit.

Lombardi refused to comment on any possible dates, but Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper reports Pope Benedict has already accepted an invitation from Israeli President Shimon Peres to visit sometime in May. Ha'aretz says the pope is also expected to visit the Palestinian territories.

Pope Benedict would be the third pontiff to visit Israel. Pope John Paul visited Israel in 2000, while Pope Paul made the trip in 1964.

Relations between Israel and the Vatican have been strained since the Vatican decided to consider Pope Pius for sainthood.

Pius, who led the Roman Catholic church during World War Two, has been accused by some Jews of doing too little to stop the killing of Jews during the Holocaust.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.


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