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Pope Benedict in Israel this May

Pope Benedict has confirmed a visit to Israel in May, a historical third trip by a reigning pontiff since it was founded in 1948, despite tensions between the Vatican and Israel, the Star Tribune reported.

Benedict announced the trip that will include visits to Bethlehem in the West Bank and Jordan to Jewish leaders at the Vatican Thursday.

The beatification of Pope Pius XII, who led the Roman Catholic Church from 1939 to 1958 was accused by some of not having done enough to save Jews during the Holocaust, which caused tension and debate in 2007 for Israeli officials and Jewish groups. His beatification, potentially leading to sainthood, appears to be on hold, the Star Tribune reported.

Richard Williamson claims "historical evidence" goes against Nazi gas chambers, and the pope had revoked the excommunication of Williamson and three other schismatic bishops, in late January. Benedict claimed Holocaust denial "intolerable and altogether unacceptable."

"We very much hope that the visit will be held in an appropriate atmosphere," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday. The Star Tribune reported that he did not mention the recent tensions.

Yahoo News
reported that Rabbi David Rosen said Pope hopes it will be "a sign of peace" for the Middle East.

"The pope's language was very clear," Rosen said. "It was a very strong and quite moving affirmation of his commitment to Catholic-Jewish relations and opposition to anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial." (Yahoo News)