(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will visit the southern Italian city of Caserta next weekend to meet with both Catholic and Evangelical leaders there. The Vatican on Monday released details of the Pope's trip, saying that he will travel by helicopter to the city on the afternoon of Saturday July 26th for a meeting with the clergy of the diocese, followed by an open-air Mass in front of the famous Royal Palace known as the Reggia di Caserta.
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On Saturday evening Pope Francis will return to the Vatican but on Monday the 28th he will travel down to the city again for a private visit with the leader of the Italy’s Evangelical Church of Reconciliation, Rev. Giovanni Traettino. Pope Francis became friends with the Pentecostal pastor when, as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he took part in ecumenical events alongside Catholics from the charismatic renewal movement. The then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, along with Traettino and Capuchin Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household, were the principal speakers at a large ecumenical charismatic gathering in the Argentinian capital in 2006. Last month, the Pope met privately with a group of evangelical pastors and televangelists at his Vatican residence.
The Catholic bishop of Caserta, Giovanni D’Avise spoke to Vatican Radio following the announcement of the visit, saying that although 9 days is not long to prepare for a papal visit, the people of the diocese will welcome the Holy Father with joy and gratitude. Bishop D’Avise said Pope Francis will be celebrating Mass to mark the feast day of St Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary and co-patron of the city of Caserta.