JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli president's office says President Shimon Peres will meet the new head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, next week.

A statement Wednesday said the pope invited Peres. The Israeli Nobel Peace laureate would be among the first world leaders to visit the new pope, who took office last month. Peres will also meet Italian leaders.

The statement said Peres plans to talk to the pope about peace negotiations with the Palestinians, ties between Israel and the Vatican and improving relations between Christians and Jews.

The Vatican and Israel established diplomatic relations in 1993.

Israel and the Vatican have been discussing the status of church properties in the Holy Land and other issues.

The statement said Franciscan monks will give Peres an award, the "Medal of Honor for Peace."


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