The Pope will travel to Caserta on July 26 and return on July 28

Although Pope Francis planned to make a short, private visit to Caserta in southern Italy specifically to visit a Pentecostal pastor he knows from Argentina, the 130-mile trip has taken a new form — two forms, to be exact.

The Pope will go to Caserta July 26 to meet with local priests and then celebrate a 6 p.m. Mass with local Catholics, probably on the grounds of the 18th-century Reggia or Royal Palace of Caserta, a former residence of the kings of Naples, said Passionist Father Ciro Benedettini, assistant director of the Vatican press office.

Pope Francis will return to the Vatican that evening, recite the Angelus with visitors in St Peter’s Square at noon July 27, then go back to Caserta July 28 for a “strictly private” meeting with Giovanni Traettino, the Pentecostal pastor, Father Benedettini told reporters July 17.

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Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, had said July 10 that the Pope hoped to visit Traettino, head of the Evangelical Church of Reconciliation in Caserta, July 26. No other events had been planned.

When the news reached Caserta, Bishop Giovanni D’Alise wrote to the Vatican asking if the pope could at least add a quick public stop to greet the town’s Catholics.

July 26 is the feast of Sts Joachim and Anne, and St. Anne is the patroness of Caserta. The town and the local diocese already had a series of Masses, processions, concerts and other events planned for the feast day and the week surrounding it. Townspeople found it hard to imagine the Pope would visit Caserta on its feast day without acknowledging the celebration.

The Pope met Traettino in Buenos Aires where the Pentecostal pastor participated in ecumenical events with Catholics, especially Catholics belonging to the charismatic renewal movement. The then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, along with Traettino and Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household, headlined a large ecumenical charismatic gathering in Buenos Aires in 2006.

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