Pope Benedict XVI to visit Middle East from May 8 to 15

Vatican announces dates of Catholic leader's long-awaited trip to Israel, Jordan and PA.

Pope Benedict 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Pope Benedict 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Vatican has set May 8-15 for Pope Benedict XVI's long-awaited first visit to the Holy Land, with stops in Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories. Details of the trip were previously released but the Vatican announcement Thursday was the first confirmation of the dates and all the stops. Among the highlights are a visit to a mosque in Jordan, stops at the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock and a visit to a Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem. He will also celebrate Mass in Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus. His visit is expected to help ease sometimes strained relations between Israel and the Vatican and between the Vatican and Muslims. His visit will be similar to Pope John Paul II's groundbreaking 2000 pilgrimage, the first official visit by a pope to the Jewish state. It begins in Amman, Jordan, where Benedict is scheduled to visit the Hussein bin Talal mosque. In 2006, Benedict prayed at Turkey's famed Blue Mosque. During his three-day stay in Jordan, Benedict will also visit biblical sites including Mount Nebo, where Moses is said to have first seen the Promised Land. Benedict will visit Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. He will also meet with Israel and Palestinian leaders and visit Nazareth.