"I'm glad to see you," Shimon Peres said.
"I'm glad to see you too," responded Mahmoud Abbas.
When the Palestinian and Israeli presidents met yesterday evening in the foyer of the Domus Santa Marta, the Vatican home of Pope Francis, they greeted each another with an embrace and with genuine warmth.
Watching them with some satisfaction was the pope, who, during his visit to the Holy Land two weeks ago, had invited both to the Vatican to pray for peace with him.
A moving ceremony followed in the Vatican gardens in which Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Christians and Muslims prayed – not a common prayer but still prayer together.
Invocations for peace
At the end of the 90-minute ceremony, the pope and the two presidents exchanged handshakes before offering their own invocations for peace.
Even as the presidents spoke, though, they indicated much about the difficulties of the peace process, as both stressed the central role of Jerusalem for their peoples.
Mr Peres called Jerusalem “the beating heart of the Jewish people”, while Mr Abbas praised God “for making Jerusalem our gate to heaven”.
For his part, the pope blamed “the evil one” for thwarting peace, saying he hoped the meeting would “mark the beginning of a new journey”.