Benedict XVI Will Visit Holy Land to Promote Peace

Confirms Dates of Travel to Jordan, Israel, Palestinian Territories

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 8, 2009 ( Benedict XVI is asking for the «spiritual support» of the faithful faced to his May 8-15 pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Today, in an address in St. Peter’s Square after the midday Angelus, the Pope explained the reason of the trip: «to ask the Lord, while visiting the places sanctified by his life on earth, for the precious gift of unity and peace for the Middle East and for all of humanity.»

He added, «From this point forward I will count on the spiritual support of all of you, that God will accompany me and fill those whom I meet along the way with his graces.»

A communiqué released today by the Vatican press office confirmed the dates of the Pontiff’s visits to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories, in which he will travel to Amman, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth.

Meeting plans

According to the Vatican note, the Pope has accepted the invitations of the king of Jordan, the president of Israel, the president of the Palestinian National Authority and Catholic officials in the Holy Land.

Father Rifaat Bader, a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Jordan, recently announced that the Pope will visit Mount Nebo (south of Amman) and will inaugurate a church at the site of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River.

According to the spokesman, a meeting with Jordanian Muslim leaders at the King Hussein Mosque in Amman is also scheduled. Furthermore, the Pope will participate in a memorial ceremony for the victims of the Shoah at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem and will meet with the highest religious representatives of Judaism and Islam.

In Jerusalem plans to meet with Shimon Peres, president of Israel, and in Bethlehem he will meet with the president of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.

In his address today, the Holy Father also asked for prayers for his upcoming trip to Africa, planned for March 17-23. He explained that he will travel to Cameroon and Angola «to show my concrete nearness and that of the Church to the Christians and peoples of that continent, which is particularly dear to me.»

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