Pope Francis will travel to Geneva on June 21 to mark the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches, the global Christian body that brings together more than 500 million Christians.
The announcement was made at a March 2 press conference in the Vatican by the WCC General Secretary, Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit and by Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
The WCC said the landmark visit is only the third by a pope, and the first time that such an occasion was dedicated to visiting the WCC, which is based in Geneva.
WCC general secretary, Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit said, "The news of the Pope's visit to the WCC and to Geneva is a sign of hope for all who long for unity, peace and justice in a broken and divided world.
"It is a sign of how Christian churches can affirm our common calling and mission to serve God together."
The WCC was founded in 1948 with a membership of 147 Christian Churches, largely in Europe and North America.
Today it brings together 348 members in countries across the globe, including most of the world's Orthodox, Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed churches, as well as many United and Independent churches.
WCC'S 70TH ANNIVERSARY
Tveit said, "That the Pope's visit occurs on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the WCC is a recognition of those who have prayed and worked together for many years for the unity of the Church.
"It is a significant sign of how far we have come in those years, through the work of the WCC and in cooperation with the Roman Catholic Church, and now under leadership of Pope Francis."
The Roman Catholic Church is not a member of the WCC but it works closely with the ecumenical institution serving on its Faith and Order Commission.
Since 1965 the Catholic Church has worked closely together with the WCC through a Joint Working Group, as well as through participation in specific commissions or practical initiatives.
The Lutheran World Federation, whose leaders met with Pope Francis in Sweden at the end of 2016 to for a joint Catholic-Lutheran commemoration of he 500th anniversary of the Reformation, welcomed the coming visit of Pope Francis to Geneva.
Like the WCC the LWF ins based at the Ecumenical Center in Geneva.
"We are encouraged and grateful that Pope Francis is coming to the Ecumenical Centre, a place that is central to the ecumenical movement," said LWF general secretary, Rev. Martin Junge, who led worship with the Pope at the Joint Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration of the Reformation in Lund in 2016.
"We believe his visit will affirm and strengthen the quest for unity, which we pray and work for. It encourages joint witness for justice, peace and reconciliation in the midst of fragmentation and suffering in the world," Lund said.