During the Mass in Bethlehem on Sunday, May 25, Pope Francis invited Presidents Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres to pray with him at the Vatican for peace in the Holy Land. He renewed the invitation the following day, receiving immediately a "yes" from the Palestinian President and the Israeli President.
The Patriarch will arrive on Saturday, June 7, and he will leave for Phanar on Monday, June 9, the patriarchate has confirmed to ZENIT.
On May 28, in fact, Pope Francis asked that they not be “left alone.” “I ask you not to leave us alone. Pray, pray much so that the Lord will give us peace in this blessed Land.”
Andrew responded by traveling to Rome to come to pray with Peter for peace, a very strong fraternal gesture charged with meaning, shown in the lengthy meeting in Jerusalem, and of the prayer in the place of Christ’s Resurrection on Sunday, May 25, to mark the 50th anniversary of Paul VI’s and Athenagoras’ meeting.
In his allocution at the Basilica of the Resurrection, the Patriarch spoke of the urgency of peace. “Religious fanaticism now menaces peace in so many regions of the globe, where the gift of life is sacrificed on the altar of religious hatred. In face of this situation, the message that emanates from this tomb that gives life is: it is urgent and clear to love the other, the other with his differences, who follows other religions and confessions, to love them as brothers and sisters. Hatred leads to death, whereas love “casts out fear” (1 John 4:18) and leads to life.”
He stressed that this peace comes from the love of the Risen Christ, saying: “Dear friends, fifty years ago, two great leaders of the Church, Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, cast out fear, cast out fear from themselves, which has prevailed for a millennium; a fear that kept the two ancient Churches, the Western and the Eastern, distant from one another, even at times one against the other. However, when they placed themselves in front of this sacred place, they transformed their fear into love. And here we are today with His Holiness Pope Francis, their Successors, in the process of following their traces and honoring their heroic initiative. We have exchanged an accolade of love, to continue our walk towards full communion in love and truth (cf. Ephesians 4:15), so that “the world will believe” (John 17:21), because no other way leads to life except that of love, of reconciliation, of genuine peace and of fidelity to the Truth.”
“The meeting of prayer for peace, to which the Holy Father invited the Presidents of Israel, Shimon Peres, and of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, will take place in the Vatican on Sunday afternoon, June 8. This date, in fact, was accepted by the two parties,” stated the Holy See on Thursday, May 29.
The day before, Wednesday, May 28, during the General Audience in Saint Peter’s Square, the Pope reiterated the meaning of his invitation, asking Catholics to pray with them for peace. “I invited the President of Israel and the President of Palestine, both men of peace and architects of peace, to come to the Vatican to pray with me for peace. And please, I ask you not to leave us alone. Pray, pray much that the Lord will give us peace in that blessed Land. I count on your prayers. Strongly pray at this time, pray much that peace will come.”
At the end of the Genera lAudience of May 21, the Pope specified that his journey was “strictly religious.” His invitation is situated, therefore, in this framework.
The Pope said in Bethlehem: “In this place, where the Prince of Peace was born, I wish to address an invitation to you, Mr. President Mahmoud Abbas, and to Mr. President Shimon Peres, to raise together with me an intense prayer, invoking from God the gift of peace. I offer my home, at the Vatican, to receive this meeting of prayer.
He added: “We all desire peace. Many people build it each day with small gestures. Many are those that suffer and endure patiently the efforts of many attempts to build it. And all – especially those placed at the service of their people – have the duty to be instruments and architects of peace, first of all in prayer.
“It is difficult to build peace, but to live without peace is a torment. All men and all women of this Land and of the whole world ask us to take before God their ardent aspiration for peace,” the Pope stressed.