Abbas, Peres pray with Pope for Mideast peace
(CNN) — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres committed themselves to the quest for peace Sunday during a unique prayer meeting of key figures in the Middle East peace process at the Vatican.
At the invitation of Pope Francis, Abbas and Peres came to the Vatican in what was seen as a break from political negotiations.
After prayers read in Arabic, Hebrew and Italian by figures from different religions, each leader offered his own invocation. The remarks included some political subtext while calling for God’s help in achieving a resolution to the turmoil and violence in the Mideast.
“Without peace, we are not complete. We have yet to achieve this mission of humanity,” Peres said. “Even when peace seems distant, we must pursue it to bring it closer.”
Abbas said people are inclined to peace.
“We ask you, Lord, for peace in the Holy Land, Palestine and Jerusalem,” he said, according to a CNN translator. “Together with its people, we call on you to make Palestine and Jerusalem, in particular, a secure land for all believers, a place of prayer and worship.”
The Pope said the meeting is the response to people who want to live as brothers and sisters and not as enemies.
“I hope that this meeting will be a journey toward what joins us, to overcome what divides us,” the Pope said.
Both had a chance to meet together privately with the Pope after the prayer ceremony in the gardens of the Vatican.
“The metric that Pope Francis would be using to measure the success of this event is much longer term. I don’t think anyone is expecting an immediate result,” said CNN senior Vatican analyst John L. Allen Jr. “Now that said, you could also argue that the success of tonight could be measured by the simple fact that it happened.”
Immediately after the remarks, the leaders exchanged kisses on the cheek and handshakes then grabbed shovels to help plant an olive tree.
It was a first for the Vatican, which had never hosted a prayer gathering of two leaders engaged in conflict.
By Steve Almasy
CNN’s Delia Gallagher and Ben Wedeman contributed to this report.