This was Pope Francis message to his guests Sunday evening – the Israeli and Palestinian Presidents Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas – as he welcomed them to his home for an Invocation for Peace in the Holy Land.
Emer McCarthy reports, Listen:
As the sunset over St Peter’s dome, in three separate phases Jews, Christians and Muslims called upon God – each according to their own tradition. The peoples of the Holy Land gave thanks to God for creation, asked for forgiveness and appealed for peace.
There were rabbis from diverse traditions, Muslim and Druze imams and muftis, cardinals, bishops, the custodian of the Holy Land, Fr. Pizzaballa. Theophilos III, Greek-orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem was also present as were Rabbi Abram Skorka and Muslim leader Omar Abboud both from Buenos Aires, longtime friends of the Holy Father.
We “call upon God in an act of supreme responsibility before our consciences and before our peoples” said Pope Francis. We cannot bring about peace on our own, he said, and that is why we are here “because we know and we believe that we need the help of God”.
“We have heard a summons, and we must respond. It is the summons to break the spiral of hatred and violence, and to break it by one word alone: the word “brother”. But to be able to utter this word we have to lift our eyes to heaven and acknowledge one another as children of one Father”.
The Israeli president Shimon Peres said: "It is within our power to bring peace to our children. This is our duty, the holy mission of parents."
The Palestinian President Mahoumoud Abbas called on God to bring a “comprehensive and just peace” to the region. He also quoted St. John Paul II “if peace is realized in Jerusalem, peace will be witnessed in the whole world".
There have been prayers for peace in the Middle East, but none quite like this. With the Pope throughout the encounter was the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I – just as he had accompanied Pope Francis throughout his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. A further reminder that Christian unity is also key to peace in the land of Christ’s Birth.
And there in the quite corner of the Vatican gardens – the four men, a Jew, two Christians and a Muslim, planted a small olive tree together as an enduring symbol of the mutual desire for peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.