to Sinai in March, as the first stop in a series of visits to the Holy Land to mark the Millennium. writes Bruce Johnston.
Sources said that moves by the Vatican to arrange the trip to the place where Moses is said to have received the Ten Commandments followed a refusal by Iraq to host the Pontiff in Baghdad and Ur of the Chaldees this year on security grounds.
The Iraqis blamed the Anglo-American no-fly zone in southern Iraq — where Ur, the reputed birthplace of Abraham — is situated, saying that as a result it was impossible to organise the trip properly.
The Sinai visit, which had originally been mooted as a sequel to the visit to Iraq, would include a meeting with President Muburak.
John Paul II would then continue on to Jordan on March 20, where Moses is said to have contemplated the Promised Land.
He is scheduled to arrive on March 21 at Ben Gurian airport near Tel Aviv, where he will be received by President Ezer Weizman and Premier Ehud Barak and, it is believed, two chief Rabbis.