June 8, 2014
Vatican City (CNS)—Praying for peace in the Holy Land alongside leaders of long-antagonistic nations, Pope Francis called on God to act where human efforts had failed, to end what he described as violence inspired by the devil.
“More than once we have been on the verge of peace, but the evil one, employing a variety of means, has succeeded in blocking it,” the pope said June 8 at an evening ceremony in the Vatican Gardens. “That is why we are here, because we know and we believe that we need the help of God.”
The pope addressed his remarks to Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during an “invocation for peace” in the Holy Land, to which he had invited them during his visit to the region two weeks earlier.
“I was young, now I am old. I experienced war, I tasted peace,” Peres said in an English portion of his statement. “Never will I forget the bereaved families, parents and children, who paid the cost of war. And all my life I shall never stop to act for peace for the generations to come. Let’s all of us join hands and make it happen.”
According to an official translation of Abbas’ prepared Arabic text, the Palestinian president said: “We want peace for us and for our neighbors. We seek prosperity and peace of mind for ourselves and for others alike.”
The event, at which Christians, Muslims and Jews prayed in each other’s presence, was almost certainly the first of its kind at the Vatican, according to Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office.
Joining the group was Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, whom Father Lombardi had described as one of the event’s “four protagonists,” and Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, custos of the Holy Land and the principal coordinator of the event. At the end of the ceremony, the pope, patriarch and the two presidents kissed each other on both cheeks, then took up shovels and added dirt to the base of a newly planted olive tree.