Pope Francis to make first visit to Israel in March

Channel 2 reports pontiff will arrive with close friend Argentinian Rabbi Abraham Skorka; will visit both Israel, West Bank.

October 13, 2013 20:30
1 minute read.
President Shimon Peres with Pope Francis at the Vatican, April 30, 2013

Shimon Peres with Pope Francis 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Ettore Ferrari/Pool)

Pope Francis will make his first visit to Israel in March.

The pope told his close friend, Argentinian Rabbi Abraham Skorka, of his lifelong dream to visit the Holy Land, and of his intentions to visit Israel and Bethlehem, Channel 2 reported on Sunday.

Skorka is expected to join Pope Francis on his visit.

According to Channel 2, the pope hopes his visit will bring a message of reconciliation.

He dreams of embracing Rabbi Skorka in front of the Western Wall, in order to send out a message against anti-Semitism.

Last week, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein visited the Vatican and invited the pope to visit the Holy Land and be his personal guest in the Knesset.

“I’ll come, I’ll come,” Pope Francis responded.

Earlier this year, President Shimon Peres also invited the pope to visit Israel.

The pope accepted the invitation “with willingness and joy,” a Vatican spokesman said.

“I am expecting you in Jerusalem, not just me but the whole country of Israel,” Peres told the pope during a visit to Rome in April.

Both of Francis’s two immediate predecessors, Benedict XVI and John Paul II, visited the Holy Land, including the Palestinian territories, in 2000 and 2009, respectively.

Lahav Harkov and Reuters contributed to this report.

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