The power of prayer: Pope Francis invites Palestinian and Israeli presidents to pray for peace Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Jun. 05, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

Pope Francis has again surprised the world by inviting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres to join him at the Vatican to pray together for peace. The event has been scheduled for Sunday, June 8.

The pope announced his invitation to Abbas on May 25 at the end of the Mass that Abbas attended in Manger Square in Bethlehem. Later the same day, Pope Francis repeated his invitation — using the same words — to Peres after arriving at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv.

Stay on the path of dialogue and peace

Pope Francis has urged the two leaders to stay on the path of dialogue, reconciliation, and peace. There is “simply no other way,” the Holy Father said.

In his message at the airport as reported by Catholic News Service (CNS), Pope Francis talked about the rights of both countries.
He said, “The right of the state of Israel to exist and to flourish in peace and security within internationally recognized borders must be universally recognized.

“At the same time, there must also be a recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to a sovereign homeland and their right to live with dignity and with freedom of movement.”

Pope visits three walls

During his visit to the Holy Land, Pope Francis visited many holy places, including the Western Wall, the only standing part of the foundation of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, which was destroyed in 70 A.D.

The pope stood at the wall for more than a minute and a half with his right hand against the wall, apparently praying. He then recited the “Our Father” and left a written message inside a crack between two blocks in the wall.

The previous day, Pope Francis made a spontaneous stop at Israel’s “separation barrier” on the West Bank. Israel says the wall is needed to protect its land from terrorism. The wall has been a target of Palestinian protests and international condemnation, said a CNS article.

Pope Francis also made an unscheduled stop at a memorial to victims of terrorism at the request of Israeli authorities.

At all three walls, the pope prayed with his hand against the stones, emphasizing the importance of prayer.

Appreciating each other’s spiritual heritage

During his visit, Pope Francis called on Christians and Jews to develop greater appreciation for their common “spiritual heritage” through deeper knowledge of each other’s faith, especially among the young.

The pope also stressed the “universal and cultural significance” of Jerusalem and its importance to Christians, Muslims, and Jews. “How good it is when pilgrims and residents enjoy free access to the holy places and can freely take part in religious celebrations,” he said.

As a member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, I am especially encouraged by the words and actions of Pope Francis. It is so sad that the land where Jesus lived has been torn apart for many centuries by discord, hatred, and violence.
Jesus came as a prince of peace. We can see Pope Francis following in his footsteps by striving to bring peace to the Holy Land.

Let us join our Holy Father as he meets with the leaders of Israel and Palestine this Sunday to pray for peace. We cannot underestimate the power of prayer. Let us join our voices with theirs in asking God to help us bring about peace on earth, especially in the Holy Land.