Vatican: Prayer with Abbas, Peres opening 'road to peace'

Pope Francis prays during his General Audience on Sept. 25, 2013. Credit: Elise Harris/CNA

The Vatican has released the details for Sunday’s prayer between Pope Francis and the Israeli and Palestinian presidents, stating that although peace will not be immediate, it’s a starting point.

“The intent of this encounter is to open the road to peace,” Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa O.F.M., Guardian of the Holy Land, revealed to journalists in a June 6 press conference, telling CNA that “My hope is that this event will help to bring a new atmosphere in the Middle East.”

Speaking to other journalists, he explained that “the goal is not to change dramatically the peace process in the Middle East, but to bring back in the atmosphere among the people in the Middle East the desire, the real desire for peace.”

Detailing the itinerary for the prayer, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. stated that Presidents Shimon Peres of Israel and Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine will arrive to the Vatican within a few minutes of each other, and will meet Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartolomeo I of Constantinople at the pontiff’s residence in the Saint Martha guesthouse.

Afterward the four will travel together by car to the Vatican Gardens, where a brief explanation of the celebration will be given in English.

The prayer, the spokesman noted, will be divided into three parts following the chronological order of the three faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Beginning around 7 p.m., the first part of the prayer will be recited in Hebrew, honoring the Jewish faith. It will include an initial prayer, a brief musical interlude, a prayer of forgiveness, a second musical interlude, a prayer invoking peace, and finally a Jewish musical meditation.

The second part of the prayer, dedicated to Christianity, will follow the same structure, and will be recited in English, Italian and Arabic. The third part, honoring the Muslim community, will only be said in Arabic.

Following the three parts of the prayer, Pope Francis will give a discourse invoking peace, and then invite the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to give their own, beginning with Shimon Peres, who will be followed by Mahmoud Abbas.

After giving the speeches, the Pope and the presidents, along with Patriarch Bartolomeo I, will exchange a sign of peace in shaking hands. Pope Francis and the two presidents will then plant an olive tree together as a symbol of peace.

Concluding the celebration, the four will stand side-by-side as the delegations of each come to greet them, and will then travel to the Casina Pio IV nearby for a private discussion, after which the presidents will depart for their own residences, while the Pope and Bartolomeo I go to Saint Martha’s.


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