Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Next Year in Jerusalem

Last week, the papal travel advance team was in Jerusalem, where it sat down with top aides to Israeli President Shimon Peres to begin hashing out plans for a spring PopeTrip to the Holy Land.

Now, with the politically-sensitive pilgrimage's dates floated in the Italian press as 8-15 May, CNS notes the Holy See's studied silence on the leaks:
Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi told Catholic News Service Dec. 16, "The Vatican will announce its program when it feels the moment is right and it has all the elements necessary to do so."

For now, he said he would confirm only that planning is underway and meetings are being held with the necessary government and church officials.

The office of Israeli President Shimon Peres issued a statement Dec. 10 saying a "Vatican delegation responsible for preparing Pope Benedict XVI's official visits around the world" had met that day in Jerusalem with presidential advisers to discuss plans for the possible papal visit.

The Italian newspaper, Il Foglio, reported Dec. 16 that Pope Benedict's trip would follow an itinerary similar to that used by Pope John Paul II in 2000: visiting the Memorial of Moses Monastery on Mount Nebo at Madaba, Jordan, meeting Jordanian government officials and celebrating Mass for Jordanian Catholics before flying to Tel Aviv, Israel.

In Israel, it said, the pope will celebrate Mass in Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem, as well as meet with officials from the Israeli and Palestinian governments.

Il Foglio also said Archbishop Antonio Franco, the Vatican nuncio to Israel and the Palestinian territories, was to meet with Avner Shalev, chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, to discuss a possible papal visit to the memorial, which is a normal part of state visits to Israel.
As veteran readers recall, PopeTrip developments do tend to circulate well in advance of their official announcement.