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Pope Francis recalls 2014 embrace of Palestine and Israel presidents at prayer for peace
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Pope Francis on Friday evening recalled the “significant, historic gesture of dialogue and peace” made by the presidents of Israel and Palestine 10 years ago in the Vatican Gardens.

An interreligious prayer service was held in the Vatican Gardens June 7 to mark the 10th anniversary of the June 8, 2014, “prayer for peace in the Holy Land,” at which Israel’s then-President Shimon Peres and Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas embraced.

“I carry in my heart much gratitude to the Lord for that day, while I cherish the memory of that emotional embrace that the two presidents exchanged,” Francis said June 7 in the presence of 23 cardinals, ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, and representatives of the Jewish and Islamic communities of Rome.

“Today, remembering that event is important, especially in light of what is unfortunately happening in Palestine and Israel,” he said. “Every day I pray that this war will finally come to an end.”

Pope Francis, who arrived at the prayer in a golf cart, remained for around 30 minutes. The ambassadors of Palestine, Israel, Ukraine, and Russia were among those present as well as Rabbi Alberto Funaro and Abdellah Redouane, secretary general of the Islamic Cultural Center of Italy-Grand Mosque of Rome.

In his remarks, the pontiff said he thinks “of all those who are suffering, in Israel and Palestine: the Christians, the Jews, the Muslims.”

“I think of how urgent it is that from the rubble of Gaza there is finally a decision to stop the weapons and, therefore, I ask that there be a cease-fire; I think of the Israeli family members and hostages and ask that they be freed as soon as possible; I think of the Palestinian population and ask that they be protected and receive all the humanitarian aid they need; I think of the many people displaced by the fighting, and I ask that soon their homes be rebuilt so that they can return to them in peace,” he said.

Francis said he is also thinking of all the Palestinians and Israelis of goodwill who, amid tears and suffering, are waiting in hope for peace.

“We must all work and strive so that a lasting peace is achieved, where the State of Palestine and the State of Israel can live side by side, breaking down the walls of enmity and hatred; and we must all cherish Jerusalem, so that it becomes the city of fraternal encounter between Christians, Jews, and Muslims, protected by a special internationally guaranteed status,” he urged.

The 2014 prayer for peace in the Vatican Gardens took place two weeks after Pope Francis’ pilgrimage to the Holy Land May 24–26. On that occasion, he had invited the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to come to the Vatican “to implore God for the gift of peace.” Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I was also present at the 2014 prayer service, which included the symbolic gesture of the planting of an olive tree.

In his speech on Friday, Pope Francis warned against an ideology that says “war can solve problems and lead to peace.”

“At stake are always power struggles between different social groups, partisan economic interests, and international political balancing acts that aim for an apparent peace while running away from the real problems,” he underlined.

Francis also noted the “growing trail of hostility” between Israel and Palestine, which has made the world witnesses to the deaths of so many innocent people.

“All of this suffering, the brutality of war, the violence it unleashes, and the hatred it sows even in future generations should convince us that ‘every war leaves the world worse off than it found it. War is a failure of politics and humanity, a shameful surrender, a defeat in the face of the forces of evil,’” he said, quoting from his 2020 encyclical Fratelli Tutti.

“We are here today to invoke peace. We ask God for it as a gift of his mercy. For peace is not made only on paper agreements or on the tables of human and political compromises. It comes from transformed hearts, it arises when each of us is reached and touched by God’s love,” he said.

“There can be no peace unless we first let God himself disarm our hearts, to make them hospitable, compassionate, and merciful.”

Pope Francis concluded his remarks with the same prayer for peace he invoked at the 2014 meeting.

“Now, Lord, come to our aid! Grant us peace, teach us peace; guide our steps in the way of peace. Open our eyes and our hearts, and give us the courage to say: ‘Never again war!’” he prayed.

This article was originally published on Catholic News Agency.

Author Name

Hannah Brockhaus is Catholic News Agency's senior Rome correspondent. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has a degree in English from Truman State University in Missouri.

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