Pope meets Middle East leaders with no political agenda
Pope Francis hopes an unprecedented meeting of the Israeli and Palestinian presidents at the Vatican on Sunday can help end “eternal negotiations” and lead to peace but he has no wish to meddle in Middle East politics, the Vatican said on Friday.
Israel’s Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas will pray for peace together following a surprise invitation made by Francis during his visit to the Holy Land last month.
“This is a moment to invoke God for the gift of peace. This is a pause in politics,” said Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, a Church official in charge of Catholic sites in the Holy Land and a key organizer of Sunday’s encounter.
“This is also an invitation to politicians to pause and look heavenward,” Pizzaballa told a Vatican briefing. “Everyone wants something to happen, something to change. Everyone is tried of these eternal negotiations that never end …”
The two presidents will spend about two hours in the Vatican gardens at an intricately planned service that will include prayers and meditations by Jews, Christians and Muslims in each other’s presence.
The pope, Peres and Abbas will read individual invocations for peace, shake hands and plant an olive tree in the gardens. Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual head of the Orthodox Church, will also attend.