Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu flies to Italy Sunday, where he will have his
first audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican and personally invite him to
visit Jerusalem. The meeting will take place on Monday.
Peres and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein already met with the pontiff at the
Vatican to issue invitations to the Holy Land, the former in April, the latter
Francis, who was ordained in March, has indicated a desire to
visit Jerusalem but has not formally set a date.
Still, a Vatican advance
team is expected to arrive in Israel in the near future to plan for a papal
visit, which could happen next year.
CNN reported over the weekend that
the pontiff would visit from May 25-26, citing an unnamed senior Israeli
When Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein urged him to visit Israel
during an October meeting at the Vatican, Pope Francis replied, “I’ll come! I’ll
come!” During an audience at the Vatican in October, Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas also invited Francis to visit.
When the pope
arrives, it is expected he will visit both Israel and the Palestinian
territories, as did Benedict XVI in 2009 and John Paul II in 2000.
date, there have been only three papal visits to Israel. The first was in 1964,
when Pope Paul VI came to Jerusalem.
On Sunday night, Netanyahu will meet
in Rome with Italian Jewish community leaders and celebrate the fifth night of
Hanukka by lighting a menorah at the city’s Great Synagogue.
ministers will accompany the prime minister to Italy: Foreign Minister Avigdor
Liberman, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Home Front Defense
Minister and Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom, Education Minister Shai
Piron and Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat.
Netanyahu they will hold an annual government- to-government meeting with their
Netanyahu will also speak with Italian Prime
Minister Enrico Letta. The two last met in October when Netanyahu was in Rome to
speak with US Secretary of State John Kerry.