President Shimon Peres is to travel to Rome to meet with Pope Francis I on April 30. He will be the first high-ranking Israeli official to meet with Francis since he was elected to head the Catholic Church in March.
Francis, 76, replaced Benedict XVI, who became the first pope in 600 years to step down from the post.
An Argentinian-born Jesuit, Francis was the choice of the College of Cardinals following two days of voting in Vatican City. He is the first pope to come from outside Europe, reflecting the changing demographics among Catholics.
On Sunday the Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem invited Pope Francis to visit the city where Jesus preached and healed.
Patriarch Fouad Twal sent the new pope an Easter greeting in which he invited him to come to Jerusalem and work toward easing the suffering of Christians in the Middle East, Israel Radio reported.
He also wrote to Francis of the need for a solution to the Palestinian issue and the conflict in Syria — both of which were addressed by the pope in the Easter peace plea he delivered on Sunday.
Israel’s Ambassador to the Vatican, Zion Evrony, met with Pope Francis in March and formally invited him to visit Israel, formalizing an invitation issued by Peres immediately after Francis took office.
The pope reportedly said “shalom” to the Israeli representative and smiled, but did not immediately respond to the invitation.
Stuart Winer, Philip Podolsky and AP contributed to this report.