Report: Pope Francis may visit Israel in June, meet with Russian Orthodox Patriarch
Pope has voiced opposition to Russian invasion of Ukraine while Russian Patriarch has supported it; potential visit would follow planned trip to Lebanon in June
The Vatican is looking into the possibility of Pope Francis visiting Jerusalem in June, Reuters reported Monday, citing two unnamed sources.
The news agency said the purpose of the visit would be a meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, who has voiced support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The pope is already scheduled to visit Lebanon in mid-June. According to Reuters, he may extend his trip, flying to Amman on June 14 and then to Jerusalem by helicopter. He would head back to Rome from Israel.
The report did not mention the nature of the potential meeting with the Russian Patriarch, but Pope Francis has decried the killing of children and other defenseless civilians in Ukraine.
In March, he told a crowd estimated by the Vatican to number 25,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his customary Sunday noon appearance that the attacks must stop “before cities are reduced to cemeteries.”
Patriarch Kirill has defended Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, recently saying at a sermon in Moscow: “Let the Lord help us unite during this difficult time for our Fatherland, including around the authorities,” according to Reuters.
On Sunday, Pope Francis called for an Easter truce in Ukraine, Reuters noted, questioning the value of planting a victory flag “on a heap of rubble” in an apparent reference to the Russian offensive.
Reuters cited one source as saying that his trip to Israel following his planned visit to Lebanon was certain and another source as saying it was possible.
The pope’s visit to Lebanon is seen as an apparent show of support for the country experiencing an unprecedented economic meltdown. Pope Francis has held special prayers for Lebanon and has repeatedly said he plans to visit the small country since 2019.
It will be the first visit by a pope to the Mediterranean nation since 2012, when Pope Benedict XVI paid a three-day visit to Lebanon.
Pope Francis last visited Israel in May 2014. His visit included visits to religious sites in both Jerusalem and Bethlehem and a short stop at the West Bank security barrier, as well as visits to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, Theodor Herzl’s grave and an Israeli memorial to victims of terrorism.