Pope Francis hosted a peace prayer summit with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Vatican Gardens on Sunday. The meeting was a result of an invitation the Holy Father issued during his trip to the Holy Land two weeks ago, in which he requested that the two presidents meet at the Vatican for an “invocation for peace” in the Holy Land. Catholic News Service reports:
The event, at which Christians, Muslims and Jews prayed in each other’s presence, was almost certainly the first of its kind at the Vatican, according to Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office.
The starting time of 7 p.m. had been chosen in part to avoid the midday heat, yet temperatures were still in the mid 80s less than an hour earlier, when Peres arrived by car at the Vatican guesthouse, where the pope lives. Abbas arrived at 6:30 p.m., and 15 minutes later the two presidents embraced in the presence of the pope.
“Nice to see you,” Peres and Abbas told each other in English.
Joining the group was Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, whom Father Lombardi had described as one of the event’s “four protagonists,” and Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, custos of the Holy Land and the principal coordinator of the event.
In his speech, Pope Francis said:
“History teaches that our strength alone does not suffice. More than once we have been on the verge of peace, but the evil one, employing a variety of means, has succeeded in blocking it. That is why we are here, because we know and we believe that we need the help of God. We do not renounce our responsibilities, but we do call upon God in an act of supreme responsibility before our consciences and before our peoples. We have heard a summons, and we must respond. It is the summons to break the spiral of hatred and violence, and to break it by one word alone: the word ‘brother.’ But to be able to utter this word we have to lift our eyes to heaven and acknowledge one another as children of one Father.”
Read more about the peace summit at Catholic News Service.
Read the full text of Pope Francis’ speech at the National Catholic Register.