International News

Pope to Visit City of Romeo and Juliet With Theme ‘Justice and Peace Shall Kiss’

ALGES, PORTUGAL – AUGUST 6: Pope Francis, adresses the volunteers during an encounter on the last day of WYD (World Youth Day) on August 6, 2023 in Alges, Oeiras, Portugal. Pope Francis visits Portugal for World Youth Day (WYD) which takes place over the first week of August. WYD is an international Catholic rally inaugurated by St. John Paul II to invigorate young people in their faith. Pope Francis will travel around Portugal during his five-day visit holding masses and confessions for young people and meeting Portuguese catholic clergy members, he will also visit The Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima. (Photo: António Pedro Santos – Pool/Getty Images)

By Elise Ann Allen

ROME — In less than a month, Pope Francis will make his second journey outside Rome of the year. He will visit the Italian city of Verona, the setting of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” where he will participate in an event dedicated to promoting peace and meet with local clergy and youth.

Francis will travel to Verona on Saturday, May 18, to attend the “Arena of Peace” event. This event brings together civil, ecclesial, and individual entities to pray and call for peace in the world.

Major themes expected to be addressed include peace and disarmament, the environment, migration, issues related to labor, economy, and finance, and democracy and human rights.

Though the pope’s visit to Verona, which marks his first trip to the northern Italian region of Veneto in his 11-year papacy, had been publicized by the local diocese, the Vatican made the formal announcement Monday, publishing the official program of the outing.

According to the Vatican’s schedule, the pope will leave the Vatican around 6:30 am. Rome time (12:30 am Eastern) on May 18, arriving in Verona at 8:00 am (2:00 am Eastern). There, he will be met by the Bishop of Verona, Domenico Pompili, as well as local regional leaders.

After his arrival, Pope Francis will meet with priests and consecrated persons in Verona before giving a speech to children and young people.

He will then move on to the Arena of Peace event to answer questions. He will then visit a prison, meeting with inmates and administrators before having lunch with several inmates.

In the afternoon, Francis will celebrate Mass at Verona’s Bentegodi Stadium before returning to Roma via helicopter, arriving at the Vatican around 6:15 pm local time.

In his announcement of the pope’s visit, with the theme, “Justice and peace shall kiss,” Pompili said Verona is a “crossroads of peoples, and therefore a suitable space for discussion and dialogue.”

“This land was the birthplace of so many missionary men and women, authentic ‘social poets’ who brought the gospel throughout the world, promoting integral human development,” he said.

He noted that the date of the pope’s visit coincides with the eve of the liturgical feast of Pentecost and falls close to the May 21 feast day of Saint Zeno, patron of the local church.

“As we find in his discourses that have come down to us, he spoke of true justice as the mother of mercy towards the poor and miserable,” Pompili said, noting that many people in Verona have embraced this spirit of charity.

To this end, he pointed to Italian theologian Romano Guardini, born in Verona and whose work Pope Francis studied as a Jesuit during a stint in Germany.

Guardini, Pompili said, has always “indicated the path of coexistence, discussion and dialogue.”

About the event Pope Francis will attend, he said, “Over the years, there has been no shortage of women and men, popular movements and associations, who have kept the theme of peace and care for creation alive, as evidenced, among other things, by the Peace Arenas that have taken place in recent decades.”

The last pope to visit Verona was Benedict XVI in 2009 for the national ecclesial conference. Before that, Pope John Paul II formally visited from April 16-17, 1988.