Pope Francis has announced that he will be making a previously unscheduled day-trip in June to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina that suffered a brutal siege during the Bosnian War of the 1990s.
The pontiff revealed his plans for the trip Sunday during his weekly Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square, telling crowds gathered in off-and-on rain that he would be making the trip in the interest of inter-religious dialogue and peace.
Sarajevo, which is located in the center of Bosnia and Herzegovina across the Adriatic Sea from Italy, has historically had diverse cultural roots, with populations of Catholic and Orthodox Christians, Jews, and Muslims.
Francis asked those in the Square Sunday to pray for the trip so that it might "contribute to ... fraternity and peace, inter-religious dialogue, and friendship." The last pope to visit Sarajevo was Pope John Paul II in April 1997.
Barring any unexpected trips between now and June, the visit to Sarajevo will be Francis' eighth outside Italy. It will be his second day-trip outside the country, following a visit last November to Strasbourg, France, to address the European Parliament and the Council of Europe.
Francis has made Catholic-Orthodox dialogue and inter-religious efforts a key part of his trips abroad, having several meetings with Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew during a trip to Turkey last November and taking part in inter-religious encounters in Sri Lanka last month.
The pontiff recently wrapped up a week-long visit to that country and the Philippines in January. He has also confirmed a trip to Latin America, expected for the summer, when he will visit Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay.
Francis is also due to visit the United States in September, where he has confirmed he will make stops in Washington, DC, New York, and Philadelphia.
[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]