Pope begins visit to Middle East


Jordan: May 8, 2009. Pope Benedict XVI has arrived in the Middle East on his first visit there as Pontiff. The 82-year-old arrived in the Jordanian capital Amman on the first leg of what has been described as a pilgrimage.

Pope Benedict is to divide his eight-day visit between Jordan and Israel, with a stop in Bethlehem, in the West Bank, on Wednesday. He will also visit Amman's Regina Pacis centre for the handicapped and raise the issue of Iraq's Christian minority. Pope Benedict plans to speak to Palestinians during a visit to a refugee camp in Bethlehem and visit a children's hospital. The Pope will follow in the footsteps of John Paul II in 2000, including a stop in Mount Nebo. While the Pope has described his trip as a spiritual pilgrimage, there are also high political and diplomatic stakes. His action in lifting the excommunication of Holocaust-denying British bishop Richard Williamson caused international controversy. Many in Israel have also been angered by the proposed sainthood of pope Pius XII, who Jews revile for his passive stance during the Holocaust.

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nazirbhattipcc@aol.com , pakistanchristianpost@yahoo.com