An encounter among Pope Francis, the Palestinian president, and the Israeli president at the Vatican to pray for peace in the Holy Land has been set for June 8, the Holy See has announced. “The encounter to pray for peace, to which the Holy Father Francis has invited the president of Israel, Shimon Peres, and of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, will take place Sunday, June 8, in the afternoon, at the Vatican,” the Holy See press office announced May 29. “This date has been accepted by both parties.” At the close of his Mass said in Bethlehem May 25, Pope Francis invited the two leaders to the Vatican for the meeting: “I offer my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer.” “In this, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace I wish to invite you, president Mahmoud Abbas, together with president Shimon Peres, to join me in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace.” He continued, “all of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers.” “All of us — especially those placed at the service of their respective peoples — have the duty to become instruments and artisans of peace, especially by our prayers. Building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a constant torment. The men and women of these lands, and of the entire world, all of them, ask us to bring before God their fervent hopes for peace.” Both presidents accepted the invitation the same day; Peres’ office stated that “we welcome Pope Francis' invitation to the Vatican. President Peres has supported and will continue to support all avenues to bring about peace.” Pope Francis’ invitation was issued on the second day of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where his addresses focused heavily on the theme of peace. Speaking to Abbas and other Palestinian officials that day, he lamented the “protracted conflict which has inflicted many wounds so difficult to heal.” “For the good of all, there is a need to intensify efforts and initiatives aimed at creating the conditions for a stable peace based on justice, on the recognition of the rights of every individual, and on mutual security.” “The time has come for everyone to find the courage to be generous and creative in the service of the common good, the courage to forge a peace which rests on the acknowledgment by all of the right of two states to exist and to live in peace and security within internationally recognized borders,” he said, adding that peace “must resolutely be pursued, even if each side has to make certain sacrifices.” Meeting with Peres May 26, Pope Francis said that “peacemaking demands first and foremost respect for the dignity and freedom of every human person, which Jews, Christians and Muslims alike believe to be created by God and destined to eternal life. This shared conviction enables us resolutely to pursue peaceful solutions to every controversy and conflict.” “Here I renew my plea that all parties avoid initiatives and actions which contradict their stated determination to reach a true agreement and that they tirelessly work for peace, with decisiveness and tenacity.”
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