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Pope schedules visit to Israel

VATICAN CITY, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- Pope Benedict XVI plans to visit Israel in May, stopping en route in Amman, Jordan, an Italian newspaper reported Tuesday.

Il Foglio, citing sources in the Vatican, said that the pope plans to visit Jordan from May 8 to May 11 and Israel through May 15, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. The pope reportedly plans to meet with Palestinian Authority leaders as well as Israelis.

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The schedule was also said to include masses in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth, the three places most associated with the life of Jesus Christ.

Tensions between the Vatican and Israel have been strained by the proposed canonization of Pope Pius XII, who headed the Roman Catholic church during World War II. Pius has been blamed for failing to speak out against Nazi anti-Semitic policies. Immediately after the war, many Jewish leaders praised him for helping to hide Jews.

The Vatican is expected to make an official announcement on the visit by Christmas.

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