Queen to meet Pope Francis for first time in Rome

Queen Elizabeth II will meet Pope Francis for the first time when she visits Rome in April as a guest of the Italian president, Buckingham Palace said.

The Queen and her husband Prince Philip will have an audience with the Pope after attending a lunch hosted by President Giorgio Napolitano during the one- day visit on April 3.

It will be the first time that the Queen, who is supreme governor of the Church of England, will meet the Roman Catholic leader since he was elected in March last year.

The trip was announced the day after it was confirmed that the Queen will visit France to mark the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings on June 5 to 7.

The 87-year-old monarch and her 92-year-old husband have scaled back their overseas trips in recent years, allowing heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles and other royals to represent them.

The Rome trip will be the first time that the Queen will leave Britain since visiting Australia in October 2011.

The trip to the Italian capital was meant to take place in March last year but was postponed after the queen was hospitalised with gastroenteritis.

The monarch and her husband were to have received a ceremonial welcome and attended a private lunch, before visiting the Pantheon. That trip would have come a week before Pope Francis was elected, after his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI resigned.

Pope Benedict made a historic state visit to Britain in 2010. It was the first state visit by a pope since King Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church in Rome in 1534 and founded the Church of England.

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