THE VATICAN has confirmed tentative plans for Pope Benedict XVI to visit the Holy Land in 2009.
Israeli sources said the most likely time for the visit would be in May, with stops in Israel and the Palestinian territories. The Pope was invited to visit Israel by Israeli President Shimon Peres in 2007. At that time the Pope made it clear he hoped to make the trip, but Vatican diplomats said the timing would depend in large part on efforts to calm the simmering Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In recent months Israeli and Vatican officials began making more concrete plans for a papal visit. The contacts were first reported by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and were confirmed by the Israeli embassy to the Holy See. Haaretz, said the most likely time for the trip was the second week in May. It said the papal nuncio to Israel and the Palestinian territories, Archbishop Antonio Franco, told Mr Peres in early November that the Pope had decided to visit the country.