President Nikos Christodoulides is set to visit the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City on Friday for a tête-à-tête with Pope Francis.

Government Spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis said it was a symbolic visit, since it is the first meeting of the president with the head of the Roman Catholic Church and is being held on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic and the Holy See.

The president is expected to express the determination of Cyprus to move on agreements concerning health, education and cultural cooperation.

Efforts to resume the Cyprus talks and Nicosia’s humanitarian initiative for Gaza will also be discussed.

Christodoulides will inform the Pope on the destruction of cultural and religious heritage in the north, including of Catholic monuments.

Later he will meet the prime minister and deputy foreign minister of the Holy See, followed by a visit to the Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta, where he will be officially received by the order’s grand master and foreign minister. An agreement will be signed between Cyprus’ foreign minister and the order’s finance minister.

The grand master will host an official banquet for the president and the Cypriot delegation before their departure.

Meanwhile, Cyprus and Italy agreed on a road map to strengthen bilateral relations in meetings held by the president with his counterpart in Rome, Sergio Mattarella and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

Speaking to the press on Thursday, the President said the meetings had been lengthy and productive and mentioned the two countries have historical ties and common challenges such as migration.

Christodoulides said he was briefed by Meloni on migration flows and initiatives undertaken by Italy regarding Syrian asylum seekers.

Energy was also on the agenda and the president discussed contacts between Meloni and ENI as well as drillings in Cyprus’ EEZ.

Support for Nicosia’s humanitarian proposal for Gaza was expressed by the Italian PM who offered ideas for that state’s more active involvement, he said.

Christodoulides invited Meloni and Mattarella to Cyprus, which was accepted.

The president noted that the last time an Italian premier had visited the island was 33 years ago while the visit by an Italian president will be a first.