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Habemus papam Pope to visit Geneva in June

Pope Francis walks past a member of the Swiss guard

Pope Francis walks past a Swiss guard in 2013

(Keystone)

Pope Francis has accepted an invitation from the Swiss Federal Council to visit Switzerland. He is expected to arrive in Geneva on June 21. 

A government delegation led by Home Affairs Minister Alain Berset will receive the pope and hold official talks with him, the government confirmed to the Swiss News Agency on Wednesday. 

The most recent papal visit to Switzerland was in 2004, when Pope John Paul II came to Bern a year before he died. Almost 70,000 attended the Mass which he held in German. John Paul II had previously visited various international organisations in Geneva in 1982.

Some 38% of the Swiss population identifies as Roman Catholic, while about 27% of Swiss residents belong to the Protestant church. A special group of Swiss soldiers known as the Pontifical Swiss Guard is tasked with protecting the pope. 

+ The Swiss soldiers guarding the pope

Pope Francis, who comes from Argentina, is the first non-European pope in more than 1,000 years. He was named to the top position at the Vatican in March 2013, taking over from Pope Benedict XVI.

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