It was a meeting where politics was set aside, and priority was given to prayer. Pope Francis invited the Presidents of Israel and Palestine to pray for peace.
Each president arrived separately and the Pope personally greeted each one of them. Then, both presidents, exchanged a few words.
"I call him Holiness, but he's been a good friend for a long time”
"He is to blame for this”
"Against all the norms ...”
Also there, was Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, who leads the Orthodox Church, which has a strong presence in the Holy Land.
Together, all four of them, got in the same car, and made their way to the Vatican Gardens to pray for peace.
Since music can often express what words cannot-a list of moving melodies were played out before all delegations.
The prayer session lasted over an hour. In chronological order, first it was the Jewish representatives, then Christians and finally Muslims.
Each delegation gave thanks to God for creation and for humanity. Then came an apology for not always respecting one another. They asked for forgiveness, for their sins against God and their fellow brothers and sisters. Ultimately they prayed for the gift of peace.
Along the way, music from these three religions intensified the atmosphere of prayer.
It was a specifically a prayer meeting, but it's expected to have political consequences. Addressing both leaders, the Pope said it takes more courage to engage in peace than war. He then asked them to respect their accords and to avoid provocation. He also talked about those who have lost their lives in this conflict.
"Many, all too many, of those children have been innocent victims of war and violence, saplings cut down at the height of their promise. It is our duty to ensure that their sacrifice is not in vain. The memory of these children instils in us the courage of peace.”
President of Israel
"I was young, now I'm old. I experienced war. I tasted peace. Never will I forget the families, parents and children who paid the cost of war. All my life I shall never stop to act for peace.”
President of Palestine
"We want peace for ourselves and for our neighbors. We want prosperity and thoughts of peace for us and for others. Lord, listen to our prayers. Give victory to our requests, because You are the most just and merciful, God of all worlds.”
Together they prayed, asking for a miracle. It may not trigger immediate results, but it shows a willingness to negotiate. They also planted an olive tree, as a symbol of peace, to mark the day.
The Pope then walked them to the Vatican's Casina Pio IV Hall, where both presidents spoke in private.
The process will be long, with the Pope is hoping that Jews, Christians and Muslims will begin a new chapter of peace in the Holy Land...a region, that for generations has seen conflict.