President Shimon Peres will, on Monday, 29 April 2013, leave for a special visit to the Vatican at the invitation of Pope Francis. During the visit President Peres will meet with the new Pope, hold a series of diplomatic meetings with the President and Prime Minister of Italy, and take part in a ceremony in the city of Assisi.
President Peres will be one of the first leaders with whom Pope Francis has met since the taking up the position. During their meeting President Peres will raise the issue of the furthering peace and stability in the Middle East, progressing the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the common struggle against world poverty and the deepening of relations between Israel and the Vatican and between Christians and the Jewish people. During his meetings with the leaders of Italy President Peres will discuss in depth the Iranian threat, increasing the economic and diplomatic sanctions against Iran, European involvement in the peace process and strengthening the strategic, technological and economic relations between Israel and Italy.
President Peres will also pay a special visit to the city of Assisi which is a symbol of peace in Italy and the city in which Francis of Assisi, after whom the Pope chose his name, was born. At the invitation of the Mayor of Assisi, President Peres will be welcomed at a ceremony at the central Basilica in the city with hundreds of Franciscan monks. During the ceremony President Peres will receive the Medal of Honor for Peace and the key to the city. The award is being presented for the first time in history in recognition for President Peres' unique contribution to dialogue and the cause of peace.
President Peres will also meet with leaders of the Jewish community in Italy as well as with business leaders to increase the economic cooperation between Israel and Italy.