Pope Francis will address the European Parliament in Strasbourg on November 25.
The news was announced by the Parliament’s president Martin Schulz and immediately confirmed by the Vatican.
According to Fr Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, Pope Francis will travel to Strasbourg and back to Rome the same day, and his brief trip should not be considered a pastoral visit to France.
In visiting the Parliament, the Pope will be accepting an invitation made by Mr Schulz during a visit to the Vatican in October 2013.
“The decision to come to Strasbourg before visiting any individual EU member state as such gives a strong signal that the Pope supports and encourages the pursuit of European integration and unity,” said a statement by German Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community. “We hope that the Holy Father will encourage European parliamentarians in their work and that he will indicate how the foundational values of the Union – inspired to a large degree by the Christian faith – may shape the Europe of tomorrow.”
Pope Francis will be the second pope to speak before the European Parliament.
When St John Paul II addressed the body in October 1988, the event was disrupted by the Rev Ian Paisley, leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, who unfurled a large orange banner branding the Pope “Antichrist” and shouted: “I renounce you. I renounce you and all your cults and creeds.”
Fellow parliamentarians threw papers at Rev Paisley and, after a brief scuffle, he was forcibly ejected from the hall.