During his pilgrimage to the Holy Land (May 24-26), the Pope invited the leaders of Palestine and Israel to meet in the Vatican. “This will be a meeting for a joint prayer, and not a mediation. There will be a rabbi, a mullah and me,” Pope Francis said in a conversation with journalists of the Pope’s press pool on a plane on the way from Tel Aviv to Rome.
He added that prelates of the catholic Franciscan Order in Jerusalem were entrusted to engage in the technical issues of arranging this ‘summit’.
Earlier, the Vatican radio reported that Pope Francis invited Peres and Abbas for a ‘joint prayer for peace’, and both leaders accepted this invitation and confirmed their readiness to come to the Vatican.
Head of the Union of Arab Communities in Italy Foad Aodi believes the planned meeting may become ‘a landmark and a historic chance’ in the settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Arab and Muslim expat communities on the Apennines met the Pope’s initiative “with great satisfaction and deep respect”, says the Union’s communiqué quoted by Italy’s ANSA news agency. The document expresses “gratitude to the Roman Archpriest for his efforts for the sake of peace, for protection of migrants and refugees, in support of neighborly relations between Muslims and Christians in the region” and includes a high appreciation “for the historical openness of Pope Francis to the Islamic world, in which the principle of freedom of faith on the whole Middle East is concretized”.
Observers suppose that the meeting would take place not in the ceremonial halls of the Apostolic Palace, but in a modest chapel of the St. Martha Hospice, where Pope Francis is still living after having been elected at last year’s conclave.