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Vatican outlines plan for Israeli-Palestinian prayer meeting

Catholic World News - June 06, 2014

Pope Francis, Israel’s President Shimon Peres, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will each offer prayers for peace in their own religious traditions at a meeting on June 8, the Vatican has disclosed.

At a June 6 press conference briefing reporters on plans for the inter-religious event, Vatican officials also confirmed that Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople will participate in the prayer service.

Vatican officials stressed that the prayer service should be seen not as a political gesture, but in fact as a "pause from politics." Apart from the two heads of state, no Israeli or Palestinian government officials will participate.

The prayer service will also preserve the integrity of the separate religious traditions, noted Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the head of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, at the Vatican briefing. "We do not pray together, but we stay together to pray," he said.

Peres and Abbas will arrive at the Vatican separately, and the Pope will speak to each man privately before they join together for the service in the Vatican Gardens. The service will have three sections, with prayers for forgiveness and prayers for peace said in each of the three religious traditions: first Jewish (in Hebrew), then Christian (in English, Italian, and Arabic), and finally Islamic (in Arabic). Each set of prayers will be interspersed with musical meditations.

After the prayers, Pope Francis will speak, and invite Presidents Peres and Abbas to speak. At the conclusion of the public ceremony, the three will join with Patriarch Bartholomew for a private discussion.

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