|Israel||PROTESTS THREATEN POPE'S HOLY LAND TOUR|
The Holy Father will spend this week gearing up for his long-awaited visit to the Holy Land, arguably the culmination of all the globe-trotting done in his extraordinary 21-year papacy.
But besides the jetlag and the strain on the 79-year-old pontiff caused by all the travelling, much of it in a helicopter, the trip also promises to be one of his most politically fraught.
The visit is a long-held dream of the Pope's, and he will be only the second pontiff in history - after Pope Paul VI - to travel to the region.
This month's trip will take in visits to Bethlehem on 22 March, Nazareth on 25 March and a day spent visiting religious sites in Jerusalem on 23 March. There are also a number of potentially difficult and unpredictable appointments, including a planned visit to Jerusalem's main synagogue and its Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, where the Pope is to receive a book suggesting that the Holocaust was a result of Christian anti-Semitism.
"The Pope has expressly asked to give a speech in the [Holocaust] Museum," Israel Meir Lau, Jerusalem's Chief Rabbi, said earlier this month. "I have the impression that the Pope's request for forgiveness will be stronger and clearer [than previously]."
Israel officially warned the Vatican that the Pope would be persona non grata "if he arrives in Israel with the intention of interfering in negotiations with Palestinians on the future status of Jerusalem.