On his return from the Holy Land, Pope Francis brought with him a historic agreement: a meeting between the presidents of Israel and Palestine at the Vatican to pray together for peace.
May 25, 2014
"In this site, where the Prince of Peace was born, I would like to invite you, President Mahmuod Abbas, and President Shimon Peres, to come together and join me in intense prayer and asking God for the gift of peace. I offer my home at the Vatican to host this meeting of prayer.”
Both leaders accepted the invitation. The Pope made it clear the meeting was not a negotiation, but rather a moment to pray for peace. If anything, it will be a time to bring both sides together after the peace talks between the two countries stalled.
"The gesture from Pope Francis, and the confirmation from both presidents and the ecumenical patriarch for this prayer give way to large margins for hope, because only a creative and trustworthy effort will solve this extraordinary, complex and fascinating issue.”
One of the most contested points deals with the status of Jerusalem. Both countries claim the Holy City as their capital. But the main debate is centered over control of the historic area, located in East Jerusalem.
"Israelis control it, and it's the capital of the State of Israel. But it has the potential to become the capital of an independent Palestinian state, but it hasn't been fully recognized by the international community. It's a giant diplomatic puzzle.”
Another trouble spot in negotiations is the establishment of internationally recognized borders, and the mutual recognition of the two independent States. Pope Francis pressed the latter during his trip to the Holy Land.
"Palestine's institutional and democratic identity is strongly debated, because at this moment, it's in the midst of a liberation movement, a product of a 'revolutionary' process to achieve independence.”
Pope Francis is aware of the importance that stability in the Middle East has on a global scale, as well as to sustain Christian populations in the Land of Christ. As a result, he decided to harvest the power of prayer as a tool to help ease the tensions that have seized the region since the start of the 20th Century.