Pope Benedict XVI is planning a trip to Israel and the West Bank - possibly for the second week in May, according to Haaretz. It's still under negotiation, but just the possibility of it is a reminder of how much the world has changed since John Paul II made his pilgrimage there in March, 2000, full of millenial fervor.It was a more hopeful time; the outbreak of a new intifada was still months away. Peace seemed possible.News coverage is focusing on the potential obstacles to a papal trip, such as the beatification of Pope Pius XII. There were obstacles in 2000, too, such as a dispute over a government-sacntioned plan to build a mosque adjacent to the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. But John Paul was determined to go, and whatever obstacles there were fell by the wayside. He insisted, also, on a series of dramatic gestures that suggested inter-religious reconciliation.This is a different time, with a different pope. It will be interesting to see if a papal trip to Israel and the West Bank can clear the current squabbles and, if it does, what form it takes.
Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses.