VATICAN CITY – The Vatican says Pope Francis is planning to invite heads of churches and Christian communities from the Middle East to join him in a day of reflection and prayer in the southeastern Italian port city of Bari on July 7.
The announcement on Wednesday said Francis has called for this "ecumenical encounter for peace" in view of the "dramatic situation" facing many Christians in the Middle East.
The pope has frequently decried violence targeting Christians in parts of the Middle East, many of whom have fled their homelands to seek safety.
St. Nicholas Basilica in Bari, an Adriatic port city, is a popular pilgrimage destination for both Catholics and Orthodox Christians.
The Vatican said Francis is calling for prayers to help prepare for the daylong event.