CMEP Bulletin: Pope Francis Boosts Morale in
Weekly Churches for Middle East Peace news update
In the course of 55 hours, Pope Francis pulled off a whirlwind tour of the Holy Land that deftly managed to acknowledge both the Israeli and Palestinian narratives while emphasizing the need for peace in the region.
After spending a day in Jordan, Pope Francis became the first pontiff to travel directly to the West Bank, highlighting the Vatican’s support for Palestinian 2012 UN recognition. He flew straight to Bethlehem, met with President Mahmoud Abbas and then rode though the city in the “popemobile,” that was open to allow him to get closer to worshippers. For many, the most powerful moment of Pope Francis’ trip to the Holy Land came en route to Manger Square. In an unscheduled stop, the pontiff got out of his vehicle to pray for several minutes at the separation wall. A Vatican spokesman said Pope Francis’ prayer at the wall was a “personal decision” and “this wall is a sign of division, that something is not functioning right…[the prayer] signifies for me his desire for peace, for a world without walls.”
Next, he held mass in Manger Square, which was packed with 10,000 people. There, he extended an invitation to President Shimon Peres and President Mahmoud Abbas to join him for a summit at the Vatican. He said, “Here, at the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, I wish to invite you to join me in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace. I offer my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer,” he said. They both quickly announced they would be willing to go and the meeting is scheduled for June 8.