President of Israel Reuven Rivlin flew Wednesday night for his first official visit to Rome and the Vatican at the invitation Pope Francis.
Before leaving, he said:
I leave now to meet with a leader who is a true friend of the State of Israel, and of the Jewish people.
Pope Francis is an inspirational leader who believes in dialogue between different faiths and whose activities and statements are aimed at the promotion of this dialogue. He is an emissary of reconciliation and compassion in his endeavors for the sake of humanity.
The President will be received at an official welcoming ceremony on Thursday morning at the Vatican, after which he will hold a private meeting with the Pope.
The two will speak about the need for dialogue “between the peoples of the Middle East and between all those of different faiths.”
President Rivlin’s office added that he “will express to the Pope the importance that the State of Israel places on the preservation of freedom of religion for the different faiths in Israel, and will update the Pope on his visit to the Christian sites in the Jordan Valley last week.
The visits were aimed at developing and preserving the area around the traditional baptism site and to enable greater access for pilgrims and visitors.
Later on Thursday, the President will meet with the Prime Minister of the Vatican and the President of Italy before addressing a special meeting with members of the Jewish community in the Great Synagogue in Rome’s old Jewish quarter.