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Benedict Visits Middle East in Closely-watched Pilgrimage

Pope Benedict XVI launched the second leg of a closely-watched trip to the Middle East Monday with a visit to Israel's Holocaust memorial where he said victims of the genocide "lost their lives but they will never lose their names." National Catholic reporter John Allen describes the papal voyage.

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    And for the latest on today's developments and the pope's trip, we turn to John Allen, a senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter. He joins us from Jerusalem.

    John, hasn't the Vatican called for a two-state solution in the Middle East for a long time? What was different about this one? Why did it get so much attention?

  • JOHN ALLEN, National Catholic Reporter:

    Well, you're absolutely right, Ray. The Vatican has actually called for a two-state solution since 1948, the foundation of the state of Israel and, of course, the first Arab-Israeli war. So in that sense, there was absolutely no advance whatsoever in the pope's comments today at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport.

    I think what was different was the context. The pope arrives in Israel when it has a new government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that has been sending ambivalent signals about its own commitment to Palestinian sovereignty to the two-state solution.

    Of course, Benedict XVI made these comments in the presence of Israel's president, Shimon Peres, and Netanyahu himself. I think it was the atmospherics, therefore, and in the political context of the region rather than the content of what the pope said that rang some bells.