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The Queen is to meet Pope Francis on 3 April, Buckingham Palace confirmed today.
Her meeting with the Pope will take place during her first overseas visit for three years.
The Queen, who will be accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, is travelling to Rome at the invitation of the President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano. The Queen and the duke will have a private lunch with the president and in the afternoon be received in an audience with the Pope at the Vatican.
The visit to Pope Francis is being described as “informal”. The Daily Mail reported that it will take place the Domus Sanctae Marthae, Francis’ residence and guesthouse, rather than in the Apostolic Palace where heads of state are normally greeted.
In 1980 the Queen became the first British monarch to make a state visit to the Vatican and two years later made history again when she welcomed Pope John Paul II in London during his British visit.
Benedict XVI became the first Pope to receive a full state welcome to the UK when he visited Britain in 2010 and met the Queen at Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh. The Queen’s reign has overlapped with seven papacies.