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Sunday, 19 December, 1999, 19:52 GMT
Israel announces details of Pope's visit

Muslim worshipers pray in front of the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth

Israel has announced the dates for Pope John Paul II's tour of the Holy Land - the first papal visit to the area in 36 years.

An Israeli spokesman said the Pontiff will visit sites in Israeli and Palestinian administered areas between 21 to 26 March, 2000.

The Pope's expected itinerary
Bathe in the River Jordan
Give mass in Bethlehem and Nazareth
Visit the old city of Jerusalem including the Holocaust Museum
Meetings with the Israeli president and prime minister
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Aviv Shiron said the Pontiff would stay in a Vatican compound on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem.

Though it was confirmed last month that the Pope would visit the Holy Land, the exact dates and itinerary were not firmed up until last week's visit to Israel by two senior Vatican officials.

Dispute in Nazareth

The papal tour of the Holy Land had been put in doubt because of a dispute over plans to build a mosque near the Holy Basilica of the Annunciation - the site where Christians believe the Virgin Mary was told by the Angel Gabriel that she would give birth to Jesus Christ.

The Pope will go ahead with a visit to Nazareth
Vatican officials had said that the Pope's visit would be hindered by the plan, which was approved by the Israeli authorities.

Christians had planned to turn the land next to the Basilica into a public square for the thousands of pilgrims expected during the millennium celebrations.

Muslims in the town want to expand a nearby mosque onto the site and build an Islamic centre. They believe that it is the burial site of a revered Islamic scholar.

The long-running dispute exploded into violence last April. Demonstrations by thousands of Muslims left nearly 30 injured.

Early in November, Christian religious sites closed for two days in protest at the plans to build the mosque.

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See also:
10 Dec 99 |  Middle East
Pope cancels Iraq trip
04 Dec 99 |  Middle East
Bethlehem begins millennium celebrations
24 Nov 99 |  Middle East
Israel condemns Vatican in mosque row
22 Nov 99 |  Middle East
Christians take action in Nazareth
17 Nov 99 |  Middle East
Pope's Holy Land trip confirmed
04 Nov 99 |  Middle East
Churches to close in mosque protest

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