Vatican Assumes Role as Moral Leader for Peace

The United States, the EU, the UN and most of the world’s nations have accepted the new Palestinian interim government and the coming Palestinian elections, to provide a legitimate elected government and president for Palestine, to complete the peace process. 

While Hamas has no representative in the new government, Netanyahu is insisting contrary to the entire world that this interim government is a “Terrorist’ government; even though it has announced it accepts the right of Israel to exist, non violence, and to keep all past agreements. 

Netanyahu is using the false claims of the Extremist far Right Settler Movement to justify punishing the Palestinian Authority by refusing further peace talks, insisting that Israel will not allow elections in areas it controls, announcing a massive expansion of illegal construction on occupied land, and will be discussing other matters including annexing Area C outright at Sunday’s cabinet meeting.

Hatnua and Yesh Atid are dead set against the moves and the Sunday cabinet session promises to be stormy.  The Netanyahu coalition is in extreme jeopardy under these conditions.

As Netanyahu is doing all he can to prevent any further peace talks and a final peace deal; and is isolating Israel from its sponsors; president Peres of Israel will pray for peace at the Vatican on Pentecost. 

Pope Francis is seeking to rekindle the dream of peace by bringing the Israeli and Palestinian presidents together this weekend for a unique common prayer for peace in the Vatican gardens.  It will be the first time such a meeting has ever taken place at the Vatican and marks the first time in over a year that Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have met.

Vatican officials insisted Friday the Sunday evening prayer represented a “pause in politics” and had no political aim other than to re-ignite the desire for Israeli-Palestinian peace that was perhaps at its high when Peres and Abbas signed the Oslo peace accords in 1993.
“The intent of this initiative is to reopen a path that has perhaps been closed for some time, to recreate the desire, the possibility, the dream.”

The Vatican on Friday released the details of how the event will unfold, a delicate balancing act of both religious and diplomatic protocol that will see Jewish, Muslim and Christians praying for peace in the shadow of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Francis is expected to greet Peres and Abbas separately at the Vatican hotel where he lives and have a brief one-on-one with each of the men. Francis will be joined by the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, demonstrating a united Christian front for the event.

The four will then travel to a field in the Vatican gardens for the prayer ceremony. It is divided into three parts, Jewish, Christian and Muslim, with each faith group reading texts from their respective holy books that concern three common themes: creation, a prayer for forgiveness, and a prayer for peace. Francis, Peres and Abbas will then deliver their own remarks, and together with Bartholomew the men will plant an olive tree in a gesture of peace.

Peres will head an interfaith delegation comprising rabbis, Druze leaders and Muslim imams and will call upon leaders of all faiths to work together to ensure that religion and the name of the Divine Creator will not be invoked as a means of  justifying bloodshed and terror.

The Israeli president, who strongly believes that religious leaders have the power to influence peace, will emphasize the importance of inter-religious dialogue. The Israeli delegation, which was assembled with the assistance of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, will consist of faith leaders from across the country who will join Peres in conveying the message of peace.

The delegation will include Rabbi Dr. Rasson Arussi of the Chief Rabbinate Council; Rabbi Professor Daniel Sperber; Rabbi David Rosen; Sheikh Moafaq Tarif, the spiritual leader of the Druze faith in Israel; and Sheikh Mohammad Kiwan, the chairman of the Muslim community of Israel. The Palestinian delegation is also expected to include a faith delegation consisting of Islamic and Christian leaders.

At the Vatican on Sunday, Peres will not only urge religious leaders to work towards peace, but also to speak out against terror.

Of the members of the delegation accompanying Peres, the person most familiar with the Vatican and with the history of Catholic-Jewish relations is Rosen, the Jerusalem-based American Jewish Committee’s international director of interreligious affairs who has frequently spoken on the subject at forums around the world, who has written extensively on the subject in both Jewish and Catholic publications.

Rosen has paid many visits to the Vatican, meeting with high ranking Vatican officials as well as with a series of popes. In recognition of his contribution to the ongoing Catholic-Jewish dialogue, the rabbi was invested with a papal knighthood in 2005. 


(Vatican Radio) At a press conference in the Vatican on Friday, the head of the Holy See’s press office, Fr Federico Lombardi, and the Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land, Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, announced details of a prayer encounter to be held on Sunday with the presidents of Israel and Palestine. Also attending the event will be the spiritual leader of the Orthodox world, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

Pope Francis invited Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the encounter on May 25th during his brief but intense visit to the Holy Land. Philippa Hitchen

 “Building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a constant torment.” Those were Pope Francis’ words to the Israeli and Palestinian presidents when he invited them to come to the Vatican to join him in “heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace.” Both leaders immediately accepted that invitation and will be arriving in the Vatican around 6.30pm on Sunday evening, accompanied by delegations of about 20 people representing the different faith communities present in both states. Also taking part in the Vatican delegation will be the Orthodox Patriarch who played such a central role in the Pope’s recent pilgrimage to Jerusalem to recall a similar encounter between their predecessors exactly half a century ago.

Following a brief welcome in the Casa Santa Marta where he lives Pope Francis will accompany the two presidents and the patriarch through the Vatican gardens to a specially prepared venue surrounded by two tall hedges between the Pontifical Academy of Sciences building and a wing of the Vatican museums. Fr Lombardi explained that each faith community will present a piece of music, then thank God for the gift of creation, ask forgiveness for sins committed and pray for the gift of peace. Pope Francis and the two presidents will add their own calls for peace in the region, before exchanging greetings, planting an olive tree as a visible symbol of their desire for an end to the conflict and sharing a moment of private conversation together.

Answering journalists’ questions about the aim of the encounter, Fr Pizzaballa said it is a purely religious event designed to provide space for people to stand back from the conflict and “recreate a desire for change”. While the meeting will not lead to any overnight solutions to the complex problems of the Middle East, Fr Pizzaballa said he hoped it might just reopen a path of dialogue and allow people to dream of a world where peace really is possible.

Vatican City, 6 June 2014 (VIS) – During a briefing held this morning, Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa O.F.M., custodian of the Holy Land, and Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., director of the Holy See Press Office, presented the details of the “Invocation for Peace” initiative scheduled to take place in the Vatican on Sunday. Pope Francis has invited the presidents of Israel and Palestine, Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas, to join him in a prayer encounter.

Peres and Abbas will arrive at the Vatican within a few minutes of each other (the former at 6.15 p.m. and the latter at 6.30). The Holy Father will receive them at the entrance of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, and will then speak briefly with each. All three will then join together, along with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and will then proceed by car to the Vatican Gardens where the event will take place, beginning with a musical introduction and an explanation in English of the structure and form of the celebration, which will follow the chronological order of the three religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

At around 7 p.m. there will be a prayer (creation) in Hebrew, a brief musical interlude, a prayer invoking forgiveness, another musical interlude, a prayer invoking peace, and finally, a Jewish musical meditation. The Christian part will follow the same structure, but the first prayer will be in English, the second in Italian, and the third in Arabic. Finally the Muslim part of the celebration will proceed as above, in Arabic.

The reader will then introduce in English the final part of the celebration, beginning with Pope Francis’ discourse invoking peace. The Holy Father will then invite each of the two presidents to formulate his own invocation. Shimon Peres will begin, followed by Mahmoud Abbas. As a gesture of peace, in which the Patriarch Bartholomew will also participate, they will all shake hands and the Pope will then accompany them in planting an olive tree, symbol of peace.

At the end of the celebration the four will remain side by side while the delegations pass by to greet them. The Holy Father, the two presidents and the Patriarch will then proceed to the Casina Pio IV to speak in private.

Finally, Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas will leave the Vatican, while Pope Francis and the Patriarch Bartholomew will return to the Domus Sanctae Marthae. 

End Vatican Radio

This interreligious papal plea for peace not only sets up the Vatican as a moral leader of the Roman Catholic’s, the mainstream Jewish and Muslim faiths, Protestants and even Eastern Orthodox religions, but will also galvanize these religious people to support a genuine dialogue for peace that will only add to the tremendous pressure on the Netanyahu regime. 

It appears that the days of the Netanyahu government are almost exhausted.

At the same time Netanyahu may attack Gaza to destroy the Hamas military wing and other Islamist Extremist militants there.  This would leave a new Israeli and a new elected Palestinian government; to finalize the peace agreement already largely completed.


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