Historic Muslim, Jewish and Christian prayers at Vatican


Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas have called for peace at an unprecedented prayer with Pope Francis amid heightened tensions between the two sides.


Peres said on Sunday peacemaking was a “duty” and a “holy mission” at the spiritual event in the Vatican Gardens, and Abbas called for a “comprehensive and just peace” that could bring stability to the Middle East.

Joined by the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I, the three spoke after hearing Christian, Jewish and Muslim prayers and musical interludes in what Peres defined as “an unusual call for peace”.

“Two peoples, Israelis and Palestinians, still are aching for peace. The tears of mothers over their children are still etched in our hearts. We must put an end to the cries, to the violence,” Peres said.

Abbas said: “We want peace for us and our neighbours.”

The four leaders then symbolically shovelled soil for a newly-planted olive tree and held a closed-door meeting in a Vatican pavilion, following the collapse of US-backed Middle East peace talks earlier this year.

Francis called for the “courage” to make peace.

“Peacemaking calls for courage, much more so than warfare,” said the Argentine pontiff, who invited the two during his visit to the Middle East last month.

“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, yes to respect for agreements and no to acts of provocation, yes to sincerity and no to duplicity,” he said.

Abbas and Peres, who is 90 years old and is stepping down next month, greeted each other warmly when they arrived at the Vatican and met Francis outside his residence.

Abbas said he hoped the ceremony would “help Israel decide” to make peace and told La Repubblica daily that the pope’s invitation had been “courageous”.

Tensions are running high between the two sides following the formation of a new Palestinian unity government backed by the Islamist group Hamas.

Israel has since announced plans for building 3,200 new settler homes and has said it will boycott what it denounces as a “government of terror”.

Peres on Sunday said the Palestinian unity government was “a contradiction that can’t last very long”, but Abbas defended it saying: “One should never reject a chance for dialogue, internally as well.”



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