'We Must Save Holiness from the Conflict'
Israeli President Shimon Peres opined that both the Vatican and the Orthodox Church could help improve relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) on Tuesday, in a meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I.
Peres was fresh from a glowing meeting with Pope Francis earlier this week, when he gushed praise for the visiting pope who controversially stopped to pray at the security barrier between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, at a section with "Bethlehem look (sic) like Warsaw Ghetto" spray-painted on it.
Speaking to Bartholomew, Peres said "you came to support peace; peace between the Catholic and the Orthodox Church and peace across the Middle East."
"The meeting between religious authorities and the political establishment may help to find a compromise and a solution between the parties of the conflict. There is no other land so holy and so conflicted and we must save the holiness from the conflict."
President Peres addressed relations between Christians and Jews and said, "Our government feels it is our responsibility to guarantee free approach to every holy site and the safety of pilgrims, to enable everyone to pray to the Lord in their own language without restriction. Unfortunately, I know some communities in the Middle East are targets for hatred and discrimination, we stand with you."
President Peres also addressed the wider situation in the region and said, "The Middle East is suffering from terror, it is tearing countries apart. There is too much blood being spilt, it's a tragic situation, I don't know if civil war brings to poverty or poverty to civil war but we must overcome both."
"The better the situation for our neighbors the better it will be for us," he continued. "Spiritual authority can bring down hatred and bring an end to terror. It can support peace and spread it. We were born not to hate but to live together."
Equal but different
Patriarch Bartholomew thanked President Peres for his welcome and said, "We try through this dialogue and good relations not only to solve our differences which exist but to contribute to establishing a permanent peace, this is our conviction. Unity among faiths will be important for unity and peace around the globe."
He continued and said, "We shall continue work in this direction, despite difficulties we face where we live. We want to be equal to other citizens. As you said, the right to be equal includes the right to be different. We are different from the majority but we are faithful to our tradition."
The meeting follows a controversial visit from the Vatican, which included a questionable set of political decisions which give legitimacy to the PA, as well as outrage over a rumored deal to transfer King David's Tomb to the Vatican - either in part or in whole.
It has also been noted that the pope has been remarkably tight-lipped over the violent persecution of Christians in Bethlehem, instead choosing to condemn alleged Jewish "price tag" vandalism and the "Israeli-Palestinian conflict."