In a statement, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi confirmed that a communiqué issued this morning by the European Parliament was correct, and that Pope Francis had accepted an invitation to visit the chamber in Strasbourg, France, and “address its members during a solemn session.”
“The visit will take place on 25 November,” he said, adding in comments to reporters that it “does not affect” the Pope’s acceptance of an invitation from French President Francois Hollande and others to make an official visit to France.
Father Lombardi also stressed there will be “no religious ceremonies or other official meetings” as the purpose of the occasion is to visit the EU Parliament.
The European Parliament released the communique Thursday morning saying that the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, had “this morning informed the Conference of Presidents, made up of the leaders of the political groups, that His Holiness Pope Francis has accepted his official invitation to the European Parliament.
“This invitation was extended by President Schulz during his official visit to the Vatican on 11 October 2013,” the communique read.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, President of the Commission of Bishops Conferences of the European Community (COMECE), enthusiastically welcomed the news, saying it was particularly timely given that 2014 “marks a series of challenging beginnings for the European project.”
He added that the visit gives a “strong signal that the Pope supports and encourages the pursuit of European integration and unity.”
Earlier this year, the parliament held its 8th election of MEPs. The leadership of the European Commission is also in the process of changing and will be headed from November by new European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. The Juncker Commission is due to serve until 2019.
The last Pontiff to address the European Parliament in Strasbourg was St. Pope John Paul II in 1988, during which he was famously heckled by Ian Paisley, a Protestant Northern Ireland politician.