Pope Arrives in Uneasy Mideast

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 8, 2009 9:41 AM CDT
Palestinians attend noon prayers in Manger Square, traditionally believed to be the birthplace of Jesus, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. Pope Benedict XVI will visit the Palestinian territories.   (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
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(Newser) – Pope Benedict landed in Jordan today to begin what could be a tense Middle East tour, the New York Times reports. Next week the pope will visit Israel and the Palestinian territories, delivering 32 speeches at some of the world’s holiest sites for Christians, Jews, and Muslims. But with the region still on edge from the Gaza conflict—and considering Benedict's poor track record with Muslims and Jews—they could be tense engagements.

The Archbishop of Jerusalem, for one, is worried. “One word for the Muslims and I’m in trouble, one word for the Jews, and I’m in trouble,” he said. But Benedict was eager to make the trip given his advanced age. He intends to urge both sides towards peace, and to improve his standings with both religions. “The trip is very important and very complex,” said a Vatican spokesman. “It seems a brave gesture.”