Pope Francis will not travel to Israel on Friday to attend the funeral of Shimon Peres, despite an announcement to the contrary by Israel’s Foreign Ministry.
A spokesman for the ministry said Francis was expected to attend the funeral, along with US President Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Prince Charles and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
However, the Vatican has announced the Pope’s scheduled visit to Georgia will go ahead as planned on Friday.
Vatican: #PopeFrancis will go to Georgia Friday as planned; will not be able to attend funeral of Shimon Peres.
— Cindy Wooden (@Cindy_Wooden) September 28, 2016
Peres, a Nobel peace laureate, was a respected statesman and a frequent participant at international conferences. The former Israeli president and prime minister died on Wednesday two weeks after suffering a stroke. He was 93.
In an unprecedented seven-decade political career, Peres filled nearly every position in Israeli public life and was credited with leading the country through some of its most defining moments, from creating what is believed to be a nuclear arsenal in the 1950s, to disentangling its troops from Lebanon and rescuing its economy from triple-digit inflation in the 1980s, to guiding a sceptical nation into peace talks with the Palestinians in the 1990s.
President Obama praised Peres as a statesman whose commitment to Israel’s security and the pursuit of peace “was rooted in his own unshakeable moral foundation and unflagging optimism.”
In 2014, Pope Francis welcomed Peres, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to the Vatican. Together they planted an olive tree in the Vatican Gardens which the Pope said was a symbol of secure and lasting peace “only because it is cultivated by many hands.”
Francis had also met Peres earlier that year during his visit to the Holy Land, with their most recent meeting taking place at the Vatican in June of this year.