Pope Francis will visit the Italian city of Florence in February to speak at a meeting of bishops and mayors of the Mediterranean region.

The pope’s Feb. 27 visit will also include an encounter with refugee families. The trip will conclude with Mass at the Basilica of the Holy Cross, followed by the Angelus.

Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, said in a Nov. 15 press release: “I express deep gratitude to Pope Francis for this gesture of attention to the initiative that involves the ecclesial and civil communities of the Mediterranean.”

The gathering of Church and civil leaders follows a meeting of bishops in the southern Italian city of Bari.

Pope Francis visited the coastal city on Feb. 23, 2020, to speak on the final day of a five-day meeting bringing together more than 50 bishops from 19 Mediterranean countries spanning North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.

The 2022 edition of the bishops’ meeting will take place at the same time as a parallel gathering of mayors from cities in the Mediterranean region.

Pope Francis will address both groups on Feb. 27, the final day of the events, at Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s town hall.

Bassetti said: “The Florence meeting will be an opportunity to continue reflection, starting from the commitments that the Holy Father gave us in Bari: ‘Rebuild the bonds that have been broken, raise the cities destroyed by violence, make a garden flourish where today there are parched lands, instill hope in those who have lost it and exhort those who are closed in on themselves not to fear their brother.’”

“Let’s start again, then, from Florence, to ensure that the shores of the Mediterranean once again become a symbol of unity and not a boundary,” the bishops’ conference president added.

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Pope Francis visited Florence on Nov. 10, 2015, during which he held a landmark meeting with representatives of the National Convention of the Italian Catholic Church. He urged them to shun concerns about “power, image, and money” and focus on applying his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium “in a synodal fashion.”

Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, archbishop of Florence, said: “In prayer, we prepare to welcome Pope Francis and the bishops of Mare Nostrum [a Roman name for the Mediterranean Sea]. May the Lord enlighten these days and our dialogue so that we can contribute to building peace in an area still today marked by wars, emigration, and inequality.”

Betori recalled the example of Venerable Giorgio La Pira, the “holy mayor” of Florence. The Italian politician advocated for the poor and workers’ rights. His influence also extended beyond his municipality in the form of official trips behind the Iron Curtain, to Russia, China, and Vietnam, to promote peace and human rights — seen then as an unusual gesture for a Western politician. The Third Order Dominican was also well respected by religious leaders.

La Pira was declared Venerable, the step before beatification, by Pope Francis in 2018.

“The Holy Father honors the diocese and the city for the third time with his presence,” Betori added. “We are grateful to him and at the same time we feel a particular responsibility: The pope will be among us, heirs and direct witnesses of the work and of the commitment to fraternity among the peoples of Venerable Giorgio La Pira, the ‘holy mayor.’”

“Like him, we want to be bearers of hope so that the shores of the Mediterranean will once again unite and not divide.”