Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • May
  • 27

Pope invites Israeli, Palestinian leaders to Rome to pray for peace

Posted By May 27, 2014 | 4:36 pm | Featured Article #3

Pope says his ‘most authentic’ gestures in Holy Land were spontaneous

By Francis X. Rocca
Catholic News Service
ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM TEL AVIV (CNS) — During an inflight news conference May 26 on his return to Rome from the Holy Land, Pope Francis answered several questions about his just-ended three-day visit, giving reporters insights into his thinking and glimpses behind the scenes of the high-profile events.
Regarding his dramatic gestures during the visit, when he prayed at the controversial Israeli-built separation wall in the West Bank and kissed the hands of Holocaust survivors, the pope said the “most authentic gestures are those you don’t think about … mine were not planned gestures, it just occurs to me to do something spontaneously that way.”
The pope said he had considered inviting Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to pray with him for peace during the visit, but “there were so many logistical problems, so many, the territory where it should happen, it wasn’t easy.” Instead, he invited the two leaders to join him later at the Vatican for the purpose. Both have accepted, but a date for the event has not been set.
On the status of Jerusalem, which Israel has controversially declared its “complete and united capital,” the pope suggested part of the city might serve as capital for Palestinians under an eventual two-state solution, but that in any case it should be a “city of peace” for Christians, Muslims and Jews.
In response to a question about the possible beatification of the wartime Pope Pius XII, who many critics argue did not do or say as much as possible against the Nazi genocide of the Jews, Pope Francis did not comment on the controversy but said he could not even consider the possibility of beatification in the absence of at least one miracle recognized as attributable to late pope’s intercession.
Asked about his meeting in Jerusalem with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the pope said they discussed what he called the “ridiculous” problem of Catholic and Orthodox churches celebrating Easter on different dates, and the possibility of common efforts by the churches to protect the natural environment.
The pope’s meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew, marking the 50th anniversary of a historic encounter between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, was the original reason for Pope Francis’ densely packed pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The two leaders met a total of four times during the visit, participating in an ecumenical prayer service at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and issuing a common declaration calling for “communion in legitimate diversity” between their churches.

 

Pope invites Israeli, Palestinian leaders to Rome to pray for peace

By Francis X. Rocca
Catholic News Service
JERUSALEM (CNS) — Pope Francis invited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres to pray together at the Vatican for peace between their nations.
The pope made the announcement May 25, after praying the “Regina Coeli” at the end of Mass that Abbas attended in Manger Square, in Bethlehem, West Bank.
Later in the day, arriving at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Pope Francis was greeted by Peres and by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. There the pope repeated his invitation to Peres using exactly the same words with which he had invited Abbas.
He also urged Israel to stay on the “path of dialogue, reconciliation and peace,” saying “there is simply no other way.”
“The right of the state of Israel to exist and to flourish in peace and security within internationally recognized borders must be universally recognized,” the pope said. “At the same time, there must also be a recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to a sovereign homeland and their right to live with dignity and with freedom of movement.”
Pope Francis also echoed Peres’ and Netanyahu’s words, in their speeches of welcome, condemning the previous day’s shootings at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, where three people, including two Israeli citizens, were killed.
The pope arrived in Israel on the last leg of a May 24-26 trip to Jordan, the Palestinian territories and the West Bank.
Earlier in the day, en route to the Bethlehem Mass, he made an unscheduled stop to pray before a controversial separation wall, built by Israel over Palestinian protests on West Bank land. The pope unexpectedly stopped the vehicle and alighted, then walked over to the graffiti-covered structure and rested his forehead against it in silence for a few moments. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, later confirmed that the pope had been praying as he stood against the wall.
Father Lombardi told journalists the stop was a very important symbol of the pope’s understanding of the significance of the wall and was a manifestation of his identification with the suffering of the people, even though he made no mention of the wall in his spoken statements.
The spokesman also told journalists no date had been set for the prayer session in Rome, but that he hoped it would be soon. Father Lombardi said as far as he knew no pope had ever issued a similar invitation.
Peres’ term of office as president expires in July.
Meeting with Palestinian leaders in Bethlehem, Pope Francis voiced his sympathy with “those who suffer most” from the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a situation he called “increasingly unacceptable.”
During a speech to Abbas and other dignitaries in the presidential palace, the pope decried the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’s “tragic consequences,” including “insecurity, the violation of rights, isolation and the flight of entire communities, conflicts, shortages and sufferings of every sort.”
“In expressing my closeness to those who suffer most from this conflict, I wish to state my heartfelt conviction that the time has come to put an end to this situation which has become increasingly unacceptable,” he said.
The pope said lasting peace would require the “acknowledgement by all of the right of two states to live in peace and security within internationally recognized borders.”
“Each side has to make certain sacrifices,” Pope Francis said, calling on Israelis and Palestinians alike to “refrain from initiatives and actions which contradict the stated desire to reach a true agreement.”
The pope also expressed his concern for Palestinian Christians, who he said contributed “significantly to the common good of society” and deserved accordingly to be treated as “full citizens.”
Christians make up an estimated 1 percent of the 4.5 million people living under the Palestinian authority.
The pope voiced hopes that an eventual agreement between the Vatican and the Palestinian Authority on the status of Catholics would guarantee religious freedom, since “respect for this fundamental human right is, in fact, one of the essential conditions for peace, fraternity and harmony.”
His words echoed his remarks the previous day in Amman, Jordan, where he called for religious freedom throughout the Middle East, including respect for the right to change one’s religion.
– – –
Contributing to this story was Judith Sudilovsky in Jerusalem.