Pope brings Israeli, Palestinian presidents together in Vatican

Pope Francis hosts moving ceremony with shared prayer for peace

Pope Francis is flanked by Israel’s President Shimon Peres, right, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during an evening of peace prayers in the Vatican gardens yesterday. Photograph: AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

Pope Francis is flanked by Israel’s President Shimon Peres, right, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during an evening of peace prayers in the Vatican gardens yesterday. Photograph: AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

 

“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

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”.