Pope Francis is considering making his first trip to Israel as pontiff next year.
The head of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics said that he might travel to Israel to mark the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s visit to Jerusalem in 1964, according to the Times of Israel. It would be the second visit to Israel by Pope Francis. His first came in 1973 as a young Jesuit priest, while the Yom Kippur War broke out.
During a visit in April, the first by a head of state to the newly elected Pope, Israeli President Shimon Peres formally invited Pope Francis to visit Israel. The Pope reportedly accepted the invitation “with willingness and joy,” a Vatican spokesman said, Reuters reported.
Despite confronting a wide array of internal Catholic issues, Pope Francis has made Christian-Jewish relations and Middle East peace top priorities in his young papacy.
Both of Pope Francis’s two immediate predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, presided over a deepening of relations between the Vatican and Israel. Both pontiffs also visited Israel during their tenures.