JERUSALEM (AFP) — Pope Benedict XVI will visit the Holy Land in May on his first trip to the region as pontiff, Jerusalem’s Latin patriach said on Monday.
“With joy we would like to announce to you the desire of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to visit the Holy Land as a pilgrim next May,” Fuad Twal, the Catholic leader in the Holy Land, told reporters.
The comments marked the first official confirmation of Benedict’s widely mooted trip to the region — his first since being elected pope in 2005.
“The supreme pontiff wishes to pray with us and for us, and to acquire a first-hand knowledge of the hard conditions of our region,” Twal said in his Christmas message.
Twal did not give specific dates, but last week Italian newspaper Il Foglio said the pope would travel to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories from May 8 to 15.
Pope Paul VI was the first pontiff to visit Israel, in 1964, and Pope John Paul II visited in 2000.