Pope Francis: I’ll come to Israel

In meeting with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, leader of world’s Catholics promises to visit, doesn’t say when

Pope Francis attends a vigil for peace in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, on Saturday, September 7, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Riccardo De Luca)
Pope Francis attends a vigil for peace in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, on Saturday, September 7, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Riccardo De Luca)

Pope Francis told Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) he would visit Israel, but did not specify a date.

Edelstein was on an official visit to Italy and the Vatican Wednesday.

He met Pope Francis Wednesday afternoon, and invited him to Israel and to a visit to the Knesset.

Francis replied emphatically, “I’ll come! I’ll come!”

Edelstein also asked the pope to help combat anti-Semitism.

“There is still anti-Semitism in the world,” Edelstein said. “I ask you to use your influence to combat it.”

Pope Francis had indicated in July he would visit Israel in 2014 to mark the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s visit to Jerusalem in 1964, which took place before the Vatican recognized the State of Israel.

“The government of Israel granted me a unique opportunity to come to Jerusalem,” Francis said at the time.

The Argentinian-born pontiff made the comments on his papal aircraft flying back to the Vatican from Brazil after his first trip abroad since his election in March. He told the assembled reporters that Israel invited him to visit to mark the anniversary, and if he did make the trip, he would visit the Palestinian Authority as well.

The future visit would mark Francis’s second to the Holy Land. He visited in 1973, arriving just as the Yom Kippur War broke out. As The Times of Israel revealed in April, Jorge Mario Bergoglio (as he was then) spent six days confined to his Jerusalem hotel, studying the Letters of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.

President Shimon Peres first invited Francis to Israel immediately after his election, calling on him to visit as a spiritual, not a political, leader.

“The sooner you visit the better, as in these days a new opportunity is being created for peace and your arrival could contribute significantly to increasing the trust and belief in peace,” Peres said.

Francis would try to find time to come to Israel “in the near future,” the President’s Office said in July.

Both of the pontiff’s immediate predecessors visited Israel — Benedict XVI in 2009 and John Paul II in 2000.

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