Pope Francis said at an on-board airplane news conference Monday  that he may visit Israel as early as next year.

On his return flight from Brazil to the Vatican, the pope said he was considering a visit to the  Holy Land next year, according to The Associated Press.

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Pope Francis accepted an invitation to visit Israel from President Shimon Peres, who was visiting the Vatican in April. when the Israeli president was at the Vatican in April. No date for the visit was set at the time.

Francis was close to the Jewish community in his native Argentina.

In February, he became the first pope in modern times to succeed a living pontiff, Benedict XVI, after Benedict resigned. Benedict went to Israel in 2009, and his predecessor, John Paul II, visited in 2000.

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