Israeli President Shimon Peres formally invited Pope Francis to visit Israel during a meeting between the two leaders at the Vatican.
Pope Francis accepted the invitation “with willingness and joy,” a Vatican spokesman said, Reuters reported.
“I am expecting you in Jerusalem, not just me but the whole country of Israel,” Peres told Pope Francis during a press conference.
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.