Bethlehem mayor says pope to visit in May

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) -- The mayor of Bethlehem says Pope Benedict XVI will visit the Holy Land in May.

Mayor Victor Batarseh says Vatican officials informed him the pontiff would visit his West Bank town, the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

Israeli officials would not comment Wednesday, pending an announcement from the Vatican. No dates were given.

A Vatican delegation met with Israeli President Shimon Peres last week to discuss a possible visit.

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.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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