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Rome Reports

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Pope to Shimon Peres: Protect the sanctity of the Holy Places and its pilgrims

These sick children had asked to see the Pope, and so they welcomed him at the entrance to the home of Israeli President Shimon Peres. Pope Francis greeted each one of them. Once inside, the president gave the Pope a mosaic representing peace, designed by disabled children from Galilee. Meanwhile the Pontiff gave him a bas-relief of the historic embrace 50 years ago, between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, which ended a millennium of division. SHIMON PERES "Peace is a product of fantasy and inspiration, and you have brought both. We need it.â? POPE FRANCIS "Blessed be who enters the house of a wise and good man. And I feel blessed.â? The two then planted an olive tree at the president's garden, where they took a stroll. "I know you have a great affection for nature.â? "It is a problem that we have to face, the stewardship of Creation.â? As a surprise, the chief executive presented a choir of boys and girls from several religions, that performed a unique interpretation of Hallelujah. The performance also included a famous Argentine folk song. In his speech, Shimon Peres said he wanted to see Jews, Muslims and Christians living together, and that the key was in achieving peace. SHIMON PERES "You have come as a pilgrim and opened a door as a pilgrim of peace.â? In his remarks, the Pope recalled that Jerusalem means "city of peace.â? He asked for the protection of the Holy Places and the pilgrims from the three major religions in the region. POPE FRANCIS "The Holy Places are not monuments or museums for tourists, but places where communities of believers daily express their faith and culture, and carry out their works of charity. Precisely for this reason, their sacred character must be perpetually maintained and protection given not only to the legacy of the past but also to all those who visit these sites today and to those who will visit them in the future. May Jerusalem be truly the City of Peace!â? At the end of their audience, the two leaders greeted an ill boy and his family. Shimon Peres escorted the Pope to his car. Before taking off, Pope Francis asked the president once again to pray for him. JMB/RCA CTV FA - BN Up: YJA