Israel's Peres to visit Pope Francis

AFP , Wednesday 24 Apr 2013

Israel's President Shimon Peres plans three-day trip to Italy to meet with Pope Francis, talk about peace in the Middle East

Israel's President Shimon Peres is to meet Pope Francis on a three-day visit to Italy that will begin on Monday, an official statement said.

The Israeli president is also set to visit the city of Assisi, birthplace of Saint Francis of Assisi, after whom the new pontiff -- Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina -- chose his name.

There he will be greeted by "hundreds of Franciscan monks" at the central Basilica, the statement fro the presidency said.

Peres will also hold talks with Italy's prime minister and its president on Tuesday, the statement said.

"Peres will raise the issue of furthering peace and stability in the Middle East, progressing peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians... and the deepening of relations between Israel and the Vatican," it said.

After Pope Francis's election in March, Peres invited him to the Holy Land, saying he "represents devotion, the love of God, the love of peace, a holy modesty and a new continent which is now awakening."

"He'll be a welcome guest in the Holy Land, as a man of inspiration that can add to the attempt to bring peace in a stormy area," said Peres.

Francis's predecessor Benedict XVI visited the Holy Land and met Peres in 2009.

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