Trip to Israel Would Come After Pontiff's Strong Condemnations of Anti-SemitismWall Street Journal
Updated Oct. 17, 2013 7:25 p.m. ET
Six days after the death of former Nazi commander Erich Priebke, the furor over his burial continues, with Italian and Vatican officials refusing a funeral. Priebke had been serving a life sentence in Italy when he died at age 100. (Photo: Getty)
On Thursday, the pope also met at the Vatican with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who invited him to visit Palestine as well. Israeli President Shimon Peres had already extended an invitation to the pope to visit the Holy Land shortly after the pontiff's election in March.
Following the invitation from Mr. Abbas, "we can now start thinking in a more concrete way regarding the planning of the visit," said Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi, adding that it could take place in 2014.
A visit by Pope Francis, who has so far made only one overseas trip since his appointment, could advance that dialogue. "We can see the steady and ongoing commitment of the Catholic Church on improving Catholic-Jewish relations," said Chad Pecknold, assistant professor of theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington DC.
During his young papacy, Pope Francis has reached out to the Jewish community on several fronts. Last week, he met with members of Rome's Jewish community to mark the 70th anniversary of the start of deportations of Italian Jews from Rome to Nazi concentration camps during the German occupation of Italy. On Oct. 16, 1943, more than 1,000 Roman Jews were deported. Only 16 returned home.
"For many centuries…the Jewish community and the Church of Rome have lived in our city, with a history—as we well know—that was often traversed by misunderstandings and even true grievances," Pope Francis said at the meeting.