Palestinian President Abbas invites pope to Holy Land

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Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday invited Pope Francis to visit the Holy Land, during an audience in the Vatican, journalists present said.

Abbas spoke to Vatican foreign affairs official Dominique Mambert after the audience, saying: “It was a pleasure and I invited him to the Holy Land.”

Israeli President Shimon Peres also invited Francis during a visit earlier this year and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to be received by the pope on Wednesday next week.

Francis has already said he would like to travel to the Holy Land but the Vatican has not confirmed the trip, despite a report by Israel’s Channel 2 television that it will take place in March.

Francis has said he would like to visit with patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox.

Abbas is the fourth Middle East leader to meet Pope Francis after Peres, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and King Abdullah of Jordan.

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