VATICAN CITY (AFP) — Pope Benedict XVI is considering a visit to Israel next year, a Vatican spokesman said on Thursday.
"There are contacts at a diplomatic level to study the possibility of carrying out this trip next year," the spokesman said.
The visit could take place in the second week of May and include a stop in Bethlehem, the ANSA news agency said quoting a report in the Israeli Haaretz newspaper.
Relations between the Vatican and Israel have been strained by the Vatican's decision to press ahead with the process of beatifying controversial World War II-era Pope Pius XII despite a simmering row over his apparent silence and inaction during the Holocaust.
The wartime pope has been criticised for his silence and inaction as Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini introduced race laws which led to the deportation from 1943 of more than 8,000 Italian Jews to Nazi death camps.
Historians point out that he likewise failed to speak out for more than 1,000 Jews arrested on October 16, 1943, as Nazi troops sacked Rome's Jewish ghetto. Only 15 ever returned from concentration camps.
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