Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip plan to travel to Rome in April to meet Pope Francis for the first time since he was elected in March.
As the guests of Italian president Giorgio Napolitano, the royals will reportedly hold an audience with the pontiff on April 3. The trip will mark the first time since 2011 that the queen has left Britain, according to Agence France-Presse
. She is also scheduled to visit France in June for the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings.
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Queen Elizabeth was scheduled to meet with Pope Benedict last March — a week before Pope Francis was selected — but the two-day excursion was canceled when the monarch was hospitalized for gastroenteritis, AFP reported.
The trip is surprising, as the 87-year-old royal has been delegating an increasing number of international appearances to her son Prince Charles.
"If anyone is driving this forward, it will be the queen being realistic about what she is and isn't able to do at the age 87," royal commentator Roya Nikkhah told CBS News last month
. "I think Charles knows that he has to step up. The junior members of the royal family know they have to step up, too."
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