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October 30, 2014
Monday, May 26, 2014

Shimon Peres: 'We'll work together, Jews, Christians, Muslims to bring an end to conflicts'

Pope Francis talks with Israeli President Shimon Peres (R) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) at the Hall of Remembrance.
A day packed with political and religious encounters began at the gold-topped Dome of the Rock, the pope taking off his shoes before walking into the Jerusalem shrine from which Muslims believe the Prophet Mohammed climbed to heaven.

Francis then went to pray at the adjacent Western Wall, one the Jews' most revered shrines and a sole remnant of their sacred Second Temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

There, he, a rabbi, and an Islamic leader - both friends from his native Argentina he invited to make the trip with him - embraced in a sign of the inter-religious dialogue that Francis is convinced can be a catalyst for peace in the region.

At Yad Vashem, the pope made the type of gesture of humility that has become his custom since being elected pontiff in 2013.

As he was introduced to six survivors of Nazi concentration camps and told of their stories of struggle and near-starvation, he bent slowly to kiss the hand of each elderly person.

Reading a haunting personal reflection that was a cross between a poem and a prayer, he called the Holocaust "a boundless tragedy", adding: "A great evil has befallen us, such as never happened under the heavens. Now, Lord, hear our prayer, hear our plea, save us in your mercy. Save us from this horror."

The pope made one of his boldest political gestures on Sunday when he unexpectedly intervened in flailing diplomatic efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, inviting the presidents from the two sides to his Vatican residence to pray for peace. The meeting is expected to take place on June 6.

Both Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres accepted the offer, which came just a month after US-led peace talks collapsed amid bitter, mutual recrimination.

"We will work together, Jews, Christians and Muslims to bring an end to the conflicts," Peres said, speaking alongside the pope, a choir of children standing behind them.

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Tags:  Pope Francis  visit  Israel  Peres  Abbas  Palestine  





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