Pope invites Holy Land leaders to Vatican to pray for peace

During his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Pope Francis invited Israeli and Palestinian leaders to join him at the Vatican and together pray for peace.

Speaking in Bethlehem, the Pope offered President Shimon Peres and President Mahmoud Abbas “my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer”.

“Building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a constant torment,” the Pontiff said.

Representatives of Mr Peres and Mr Abbas were quick to accept the Pope’s invitation.

According to Haaretz.com, a senior Israeli official said a Vatican envoy delivered the invitations to pray to Mr Abbas and Mr Peres several days before the Pope’s visit.

In Bethlehem on May 25, Pope Francis made a stop next to the separation wall.

He placed his forehead on the concrete barrier that divides Israel and Palestinian territories and prayed in silence.

Pope Francis was clear in his demand that Palestine be recognised as a sovereign state.

But he held Palestinians to the same standard to recognise Israel.

After he arrived in Bethlehem, Pope Francis met with Mr Abbas and called for “the acknowledgment by all of the right of two states to exist and to live in peace and security within internationally recognised borders”.

Ten thousand people were at a Mass celebrated by the Pope in Manger Square.

After Mass, Pope Francis had lunch with five Palestinian families and met with children at the Deheisheh Refugee Camp, where he urged them never to “abandon hope, and always look forward.”

“You don’t solve violence with violence,” he told them.

Francis also labelled the current stalemate in peace efforts as “unacceptable”.

The Pope went on to make a state visit to Tel Aviv, where he also issued an invitation to pray for peace.

Pope Francis then flew on to Jerusalem, where he joined Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I in prayer in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The meeting commemorated 50 years since Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras first met in 1964.

“Clearly we cannot deny the divisions which continue to exist among us, the disciples of Jesus,” Pope Francis said.

“This sacred place makes us even more painfully aware of how tragic they are,” he said.

On the first day of his three-day pilgrimage, the Pope visited Jordan.


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