Pope Francis to Host Peres and Abbas on Sunday
Pope Francis will host on Sunday an unprecedented peace prayer meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, AFP reports.
The prayer is a symbolic gesture to foster dialogue but is unlikely to have any immediate effect.
"Nobody is fooling themselves that peace will break out in the Holy Land," said Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the head of the Franciscan Order in the Middle East who is organizing the historic event in the Vatican Gardens.
"But this time to stop and breathe has been absent for some time," he added, after Pope Francis made the offer to Peres and Abbas on a visit to the Middle East last month.
"The pope wants to look beyond, upwards," Pizzaballa said, adding, "Not everything is decided by politics."
The Pope himself has been realistic about the prospects of his initiative, saying it would be "crazy" to expect any Vatican mediation in the Israeli-PA conflict but adding that just praying together might help in some way.
In a tweet from the pope's @pontifex account on Saturday, Francis said, "Prayer is all-powerful. Let us use it to bring peace to the Middle East and peace to the world."
The Vatican has defined the meeting as an "invocation for peace" but has stressed it will not be an "inter-religious prayer", which would pose problems for the Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities taking part.
Peres is set to arrive at the Vatican on Sunday afternoon and will be followed shortly later by Abbas, with Francis welcoming them outside St. Martha's Residence where he lives in the Vatican.
They will then go together to the Vatican Gardens, where the prayers will be recited in chronological order of the world's three main monotheistic religions, starting with Judaism, followed by Christianity and then Islam, according to AFP.
The prayers from each of the three delegations will focus on three themes: "creation", "invocation for forgiveness" and "invocation for peace", the Vatican said.
They will be read out in Arabic, English, Hebrew and Italian and will be accompanied by musical interludes.
Last month’s papal visit was a controversial one and 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.
During the visit, Pope Francis addressed what he called "the State of Palestine," according to Ma'an, calling Abbas "a man of peace." In his speech, he called for a two-state solution and an end to the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict, which he deemed "unacceptable."