Bethlehem mayor: Pope to visit in May

Batarseh: He will be the most important Christian to visit the country.

Pope Benedict 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Pope Benedict 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The mayor of Bethlehem said Wednesday that Pope Benedict XVI will pay a visit to the Holy Land in May. Bethlehem mayor Victor Batarseh said senior Vatican official Paolo Corvini, of the Protocol Office of the Holy See, informed him the pontiff will visit his town, the traditional birthplace of Jesus. Batarseh said the Pope intended to make a four-day visit, touring Jordan, and then crossing to Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth, all historical Christian towns. "He will be the most important Christian to visit the country," Batarseh said. The Bethlehem mayor said Corvini was expected back in February to complete protocol details for the visit. Israeli officials would not comment pending an official announcement from the Vatican. A Vatican delegation met with Israel's President Shimon Peres last week to discuss a possible visit. That meeting followed an official invitation by Peres. The late Pope John Paul II came to the Holy Land in a 2000 pilgrimage, visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories. That was the first official visit by a pope to Israel. The Vatican and Israel established diplomatic ties in 1994 after hundreds of years of painful relations between Catholicism and Judaism.