Pope and Jewish leaders.jpgThat’s my walkaway in this scene-setter for Benedict’s trip to Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories, which is being recognized as the most difficult and risky of his pontificate–not least because of some of the baggage he himself will bring. I break my analysis at into three degrees of difficulty: The religious, the political, and the personal–that is, Benedict’s own biography and track record.

It’s a sad axiom of modern life that the holier the land, the more dangerous the terrain, and Pope Benedict XVI will quickly discover that truth for himself when he travels to Israel and Jordan this month for a week-long trip (May 8-15) that is officially described as a “pilgrimage.” But that irenic billing doesn’t begin to convey how fraught this trip is for the pontiff, who will bring with him a reputation for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, as witnessed in the recent controversies with the Jewish community, as well as lingering tensions with Muslims over the Pope’s comments about the Prophet Muhammad. And that’s not to mention the usual minefield of politics and violence in the region.

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