Pope says Israelis, Palestinians must seek peace

(L-R) Israeli President Shimon Peres, Pope Francis and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas talk after a prayer meeting at the Vatican June 8, 2014.
(L-R) Israeli President Shimon Peres, Pope Francis and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas talk after a prayer meeting at the Vatican June 8, 2014.

Pope Francis told Israeli and Palestinian leaders they “must respond” to their people’s yearning for peace “undaunted in dialogue” during an unprecedented prayer meeting among Jews, Christians and Muslims at the Vatican on Sunday.

The pope made his vibrant appeal to Israeli President Shimon Peres and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas at the end of a two-hour evening service in the Vatican gardens, an encounter he hopes will relaunch the Middle East peace process.

“Peacemaking calls for courage, much more so than warfare. It calls for the courage to say yes to encounter and no to conflict; yes to dialogue and no to violence; yes to negotiations and no to hostilities,” he said.

The pope spoke after Jewish rabbis, Christian cardinals and Muslim Imams read and chanted from the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Koran in Italian, English, Hebrew and Arabic in the first such inter-religious event in the Vatican.

At times the chanting made it seem that participants were in a synagogue or outside a mosque in the Middle East rather than a primly manicured triangular lawn, a spot the Vatican chose as a “neutral” site with no religious symbols.

In his strong speech in Italian, Francis called for respect for agreements and rejection of acts of provocation. “All of this takes courage, it takes strength and tenacity,” he said.

Francis, who made the surprise invitation to the two leaders during his trip to the Holy Land last month, said that the search for peace was “an act of supreme responsibility before our consciences and before our peoples” and noted that millions around the world of all faiths were praying with them for peace.


“We have heard a summons and we must respond. It is the summons to break the spiral of hatred and violence, and to break it by one word alone: the word ‘brother’,” the pope said as Peres and Abbas listened intently and read the live translations.

He said the children who have been the innocent victims of wars and conflicts made the search for peace an imperative. “The memory of these children instils in us the courage of peace, the strength to persevere undaunted in dialogue,” Francis said.

It was the first public meeting between the two presidents in more than a year and took place more than a month after United States-led peace talks collapsed amid bitter mutual recrimination.

Peres, who is 90 years old and whose mandate expires next month, departed from his prepared speech in English and Hebrew to say that he was an old man who had “seen war” and “tasted peace” and that all leaders owed their children a better future.

Abbas prayed to God “to bring comprehensive and just peace to our country and region so that our people and the peoples of the Middle East and the whole world would enjoy the fruit of peace, stability and coexistence”.

The pope, the two presidents and Patriarch Bartholomew then planted an olive tree and members of each delegation shook hands as music played. The four later held private talks for about 20 minutes before the two presidents left the Vatican.


Pope Francis speaks as he is flanked by Israeli President Shimon Peres (L) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) in the Vatican Gardens at the Vatican June 8, 2014. REUTERS/Max Rossi
Pope Francis speaks as he is flanked by Israeli President Shimon Peres (L) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) in the Vatican Gardens at the Vatican June 8, 2014. REUTERS/Max Rossi

The Vatican has played down any expectations that the meeting – billed as a “pause from politics” – will lead to any immediate breakthroughs in efforts to solve the region’s tortuous problems and says it is not meddling in regional issues and does not want to get involved in details of negotiations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the key Israeli decision-maker, is not attending and he refuses to deal with the Palestinian unity government, backed by Hamas Islamists, that Abbas swore in last Monday.

Netanyahu has made no direct comment on the meeting, but in remarks on Sunday at a paramilitary police base in Jerusalem he suggested that prayer is no substitute for security.

“For thousands of years, the people of Israel have been praying for peace daily. But until peace comes, we will continue to strengthen you so that you can continue to defend the State of Israel. Ultimately, that is what will guarantee our future and will also bring peace,” he told the troops.

But the fact that Francis’s bold move has managed to bring together the two presidents at all shows his desire to engage political leaders, offering inter-religious dialogue as a building block.




2 responses to “Pope says Israelis, Palestinians must seek peace”

  1. JohnStefanyszyn Avatar

    …but to which ‘god’ did Jorge Bergoglio (“Pope Francis”), President Peres, and President Abbas pray for peace at the Vatican since neither prays to the “same god”?



    Abbas……..Sunni Islam

    In addition to this,

    : Jorge Bergoglio (Catholic) (“Pope Francis”) has redefined Christ to be a representative of religious liberty & inter-faith advocacy & compromise for the sake of general (“catholic”) peace.

    :the Judaic religion rejects Jesus Christ as the Son of God…referring to Him as a blasphemer and false prophet….and Pesident Peres prayed for peace as a holy mission…perhaps the Israelis “holy mission” of self-freedom & reclaiming the totality of the land for Israel.

    :the religion of Islam also denies that Jesus Christ is the Son of God & that He was a non-resurrected prophet, claiming instead that Muhammad was the last true messenger….and President Abbas prayed for a “comprehensive & just peace” so that the Palestinians can be as free as the Jews.

    So to which ‘god’ did they pray for “peace”?

    :::::But there is one common “call it religion” that all three worship, believe in, glorify, and live by.

    ….they prayed to the ‘god’ of FREEDOM…freedom of self-rights, freedom of self-religions.

    ….Bergoglio….freedom of rights and religions for the Israelis, the Palestinians, the Christians, the Jews, the Muslims, the “non believers”, and the “others”.

    ….Peres……freedom and rights for Israel ( and they believe that it is right for them to repossess all of the land for Israel)

    ….Abbas…freedom and rights for the state and land of Palestine…the land that they believe is rightly theirs.

    = each believes his way to be right in their own eyes = I will serve and do good for myself first (XES), my neighbor second = way of conflict (and not peace) as Cain killed his brother Abel.

    And this ‘god of fortresses’ dictates that it is RIGHT (a right) to be free to worship ANY ‘god’.

    But there is Only One Creator, whose identity is clearly defined by His Son Jesus Christ….and He said that we are to worship the One and Only Creator and Him Alone, His Will Alone to serve in obedience and love….love for Him and love for the neighbor….and not “my rights”.

    Note…soon the Lord Jesus Christ will return to rule the earth in power according to and in obedience to the Will of the One and Only Creator and NOT according to man’s first love for “his freedom”…..and man will weep and clench his teeth in anger when “his self-freedom” will be no more.

    John Stefanyszyn

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