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Israeli and Palestinian youths won from Pope John Paul II something that so far has eluded their political leaders -- a firm pledge that he plans to visit the Holy Land.

"You know that, if God wills, I plan to go to the Holy Land on a pilgrimage tracing the stages of the history of salvation," Pope John Paul said in a written message he gave to a group of three young people Wednesday. "God willing, therefore, we shall have the chance to meet again on your own soil."

Until now, Pope John Paul has spoken of such a trip as a hope more than a plan.

A stop in the Holy Land is on a proposed itinerary the pope has sketched for pilgrimages across the Middle East.

The trips could begin as early as December with a visit to Ur, the biblical birthplace of Abraham in what is now Iraq, although no date has been fixed.

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