NPR logo Pope Announces Pilgrimage To Israel


Pope Announces Pilgrimage To Israel

Pope Benedict XVI has announced that he will make a long-planned pilgrimage to the Holy Land in May, visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories as well as Jordan.

The Pope told pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter's Square, "I will make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to ask the Lord for the precious gift of unity and peace for the Middle East, and for all humanity."

Stops include Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jordan's largest mosque in Amman.

The visit follows the controversy over the pope's decision to lift the excommunication of a bishop who has denied the Holocaust happened.

In a further sign of Jewish-Catholic tensions, the pope will not visit Israel's Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, where a caption on a photo of World War II-era Pope Pius XII accuses the pontiff of silence during the Holocaust.

Israel's ambassador to the Vatican, Mordechai Levi, told the Italian news agency ANSA that the pope will attend a memorial ceremony at Yad Vashem, but will not visit the museum itself.

The Vatican has sought for years to persuade Yad Vashem to remove the caption, which it considers defamatory.