Pope invites Palestinian and Israeli presidents to mutual prayer at Vatican

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

On Sunday, during Pope Francis' visit to the Middle East which lasted three days, he invited the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and the Israeli president Shimon Peres to join him for a mutual prayer at his home in the Vatican.

In a Mass given in Manger Square of Bethlehem Pope Francis told crowds,"Building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a constant torment. The men and women of these lands, and of the entire world, all of them, ask us to bring before God their fervent hopes for peace."

Pope Francis started his visit in Jordan and from there he continued to the Palestinian city of Bethlehem. In Bethlehem he met with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian National Authority, as well as leading Mass in the crowded Manger Square. He unexpectedly stopped near the concrete separation wall between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, at a spot sprayed with graffiti, got out of his vehicle, and touched the wall with his forehead.

Regarding the peace process, Pope Francis emphasized that peace "must resolutely be pursued, even if each side has to make certain sacrifices". He explained that the situation today is "increasingly unacceptable".

[Peace] must resolutely be pursued, even if each side has to make certain sacrifices

—Pope Francis

The Pope said Palestinians and Israelis each have the right to recognition of their state, calling for "the acknowledgement by all of the right of two states to exist and to live in peace and security within internationally recognized borders."

After his visit to the West Bank the Pope journeyed to Tel Aviv where he was welcomed by Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister. The Pope continued from there to Jerusalem to visit the Western Wall, the most holy site to the Jewish people, while he was escorted by an Argentine rabbi and the leader of the Muslim community of Argentina.

The Pope also visited holocaust memorial site Yad Vashem, and by the request of Benjamin Netanyahu he visited too a monument to the victims of terrorism.

The Pope's 55-hour trip included over 30 events. The Pope is 77 years old.

Both the Israeli President and the Palestinian Authority President have agreed to meet the Pope at the Vatican next month.