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Pope Francis hosts Israeli-Palestinian peace prayer
Published Sunday 08/06/2014 (updated) 10/06/2014 10:47
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People hold Palestinian flags as they wait for the Pope's Sunday
angelus prayer on Saint Peter's Square in the Vatican on June 8,
2014 (AFP Alberto Pizzoli)
VATICAN CITY (AFP) -- Pope Francis on Sunday hosts an unprecedented joint peace prayer in the Vatican with Israeli President Shimon Peres and president Mahmoud Abbas in a symbolic gesture aimed at fostering dialogue.

Abbas said he hoped the event in the Vatican Gardens, which will include Christian, Jewish and Muslim prayers and the planting of an olive tree by all three leaders, would "help Israel decide."

"The pope's invitation was courageous," Abbas said in an interview with the La Repubblica daily.

"With this prayer we are sending a message to all believers of the three major religions and the others: the dream of peace must not die," he said.

Peres, who is 90 years old and will be stepping down as president next month, was quoted by his office as saying on Sunday: "The spiritual call (for peace) is very important and affects reality.

"I hope the event will contribute to promoting peace between the two sides and throughout the world," he said, adding that the conflict is "both political and religious" and "religious leaders resonate."

He called it "an unusual call for peace."

Tensions are running high between the two sides following the formation of a new Palestinian unity government backed by the Islamist group Hamas.

Israel has since announced plans for building 3,200 new settler homes and has said it will boycott what it denounces as a "government of terror."

Peres said the Palestinian unity government was "a contradiction that can't last very long" but Abbas defended it saying: "One should never reject a chance for dialogue, internally as well."

'Time to stop and breathe'

The Vatican is being realistic about the ceremony, which is unlikely to have any immediate effect.

"Nobody is fooling themselves that peace will break out in the Holy Land," said Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the head of the Franciscan Order in the Middle East who is organizing the historic event.

"But this time to stop and breathe has been absent for some time," he told reporters at a briefing, adding: "Not everything is decided by politics."

Francis made the offer to Abbas and Peres on his first visit as pontiff to the Middle East last month and ahead of the meeting on Sunday he reiterated his call for a Catholic Church able to "shake things up."

Speaking to thousands of followers in St Peter's Square, Francis pointed to the two colonnades around the plaza and said they were like "two arms which open to welcome but do not close again to imprison."

Francis earlier admitted it would be "crazy" to expect any Vatican mediation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but said prayer might help.

In a tweet from the pope's @pontifex account on Saturday, Francis said: "Prayer is all-powerful. Let us use it to bring peace to the Middle East and peace to the world."

The Vatican has defined the meeting as an "invocation for peace" but has stressed it will not be an "inter-religious prayer", which would have posed problems for the three faiths.

Peres is set to arrive at 1615 GMT followed shortly later by Abbas, with Francis welcoming them outside St Martha's Residence where he lives in the Vatican.

In the Vatican Gardens, the prayers will be recited in chronological order of the world's three main monotheistic religions, starting with Judaism, followed by Christianity, and then Islam.

The prayers from each of the three will focus on "creation," "invocation for forgiveness," and "invocation for peace" and will be read in Arabic, English, Hebrew, and Italian, the Vatican said.

Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Muslim professor Omar Abboud, two friends of Francis's from Buenos Aires who traveled with him and prayed together on his trip to the Middle East will also attend.

The Vatican said the event, which has been carefully planned in detail, was "a pause from politics."

Friday was ruled out since it is a Muslim holy day and Saturday for the same reason for the Jewish community, while Sunday is Pentecost for Catholics -- a day of celebration of the Holy Spirit considered appropriate for the event.

The choice of the Vatican Gardens as a location is also significant since it was considered the most neutral territory within the Vatican City, with none of the Christian iconography that might be seen as offensive to the other two faiths.
1 ) John Stefanyszyn / Canada
08/06/2014 15:41
...but to which ‘god’ will Jorge Bergoglio (“Pope Francis”), President Peres, and President Abbas be praying to for peace at the Vatican since neither prays to the “same god”? Bergoglio….Catholicism Peres……..Judaism Abbas……..Sunni Islam In addition to this, : the Catholic religion has redefined Christ to be a representative of political religion, of religious liberty & compromise, under the way of the Roman empire. :the Judaic religion rejects Jesus Christ as the Son of God...referring to Him

2 ) Three Prayers / Security, Death, & Peace
08/06/2014 16:31
Two will be pretending, and Only Pope Francis will be praying for peace, without any conditions, since: - PM Netanyahu does Not want peace enough to give-up Israel's existence, as a secure Jewish state, and - Pres. Abbas does Not want peace enough to secure Israel's existence & Jewish nature, so that Israel will accept creating a Palestinian state !!

3 ) Joe / USA
08/06/2014 17:19
It is significant to the Pope to host Peres, and Abbas for a peace prayer. But not significant at all for Israel to accept the meeting as the beginning of new negotiation that Israel object with the PA unity or not. This is one country in the world to keep the spoils of wars to themeselves, even the US in WW2 wasn't after the spoils of war, but to help rebuild the countries affected by the war. Israel is a very radical country to enter in any negotiation that would be considered appropriate.

4 ) @ @ John-1 & Joe-3 / USA too
08/06/2014 20:24
[1] There is Only One God, though with many names, and [3] There is Neither a" Significance" to planting a tree in Rome, Nor "Praying For Peace" in Rome, and particularly Not - When Only Their Mouths say "Peace", while (as #2 says) - Their Hearts say either Security or Death, instead of Peace !!

5 ) ian / australia
09/06/2014 23:49
#1 "..but to which ‘god’ will Jorge Bergoglio (“Pope Francis”), President Peres, and President Abbas be praying to for peace at the Vatican since neither prays to the “same god”?" Can't quite see your point, John, but it's a good question. Abbas will pray to Allah (swt) who created ALL things and has already written the future though we don't know it yet. Francis will pray to God who sent his Son to save us (if we believe in Him). They will pray for a "just peace" which will be looked upon

6 ) ian / australia
09/06/2014 23:50
(contd.) kindly by BOTH deities because BOTH faiths, despite differences in minutiae, are universal (i.e. ALL are welcome) and value peace and love. Peres will pray to Yahweh but it won't be for peace exactly (or piss, as he calls it) and it'll be THEIR little joke that the master plan for the Holy Land is already spelt out in Torah (making prayer irrelevant), is immutable and involves Jewish VICTORY not compromise, exclusive Jewish OWNERSHIP not sharing and the utter DESTRUCTION of,

7 ) ian / australia
09/06/2014 23:51
(contd.) not peaceful co-existence with, the ETERNAL enemies of the Israel.

8 ) sergio roque fernandes / portugal
10/06/2014 00:43
important step for the end illegal occupation palestinians territories. its time to fall down the wall which siege gaza. the wall of shame.

9 ) ian / australia
11/06/2014 08:19
#2 "Three Prayers / Security, Death, & Peace..." Catchy hasbara but not remotely connected to reality. Yes, Peres wants "Security" and Francis wants "Peace"...but "Death"? Does Abu Mazen REALLY want to destroy Israel and kill the Jews? Could that be a tad hyperbolic? Or insane? Every indication is he would settle for a '"just peace", i.e. a modest, demilitarised state with borders determined by law which included the holy places next door to Israel with sovereignty in over three quarters of

10 ) ian / australia
11/06/2014 08:19
(contd.) historic Palestine. So, in fact, only ONE "will be pretending" because Israel in its endless greed has NO intention of ever letting that happen.
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