Newspaper article International New York Times

Mideast Leaders Join Pope in Vatican Prayer Summit

Newspaper article International New York Times

Mideast Leaders Join Pope in Vatican Prayer Summit

Article excerpt

Francis had extended invitations last month and said the meeting would be about prayer, not politics.The Vatican has sought to dispel any expectations that a peace breakthrough might emerge.

In a richly symbolic ceremony, Pope Francis on Sunday oversaw a carefully orchestrated prayer summit with the Israeli and Palestinian presidents, as Jews, Christians and Muslims offered invocations for peace in the Vatican gardens, even as political analysts were skeptical that the event could revive the stalled Mideast peace process.

"It is my hope that this meeting will mark the beginning of a new journey where we seek the things that unite, so as to overcome the things that divide," Francis said during the ceremony, according to an advance transcript.

During his trip last month to the Holy Land, Francis unexpectedly extended invitations for a summit at the Vatican to President Shimon Peres of Israel and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. He said the meeting would be about prayer, not politics, and Vatican officials have sought to dispel any expectations that a breakthrough might emerge.

Hewing to Francis's desire to eschew politics, Mr. Peres and Mr. Abbas avoided the familiar political tropes. There was no mention of 1967 borders or security arrangements. Mr. Abbas did not use the word "occupation," according to an English translation of his prepared text distributed by the Vatican, nor did he say "Israel," though he did refer once to Israelis.

Yet there were some subtle provocations. Mr. Peres described Jerusalem, considered by both Israelis and Palestinians as their capitals, as "the beating heart of the Jewish people." Mr. Abbas called it "our Holy city Jerusalem," and also referred to "the Holy Land Palestine." Mr. Abbas also prayed for a "sovereign and independent state" and said Palestinians were "craving for a just peace, dignified living and liberty. …

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