Pope: Peres, Abbas have ‘courage to move forward’
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Pope: Peres, Abbas have ‘courage to move forward’

On return flight from Israel after 3-day regional tour, pontiff praises Israeli, Palestinian Authority presidents

President Shimon Peres  seen embracing Pope Francis on the red carpet at a welcoming ceremony, as the pope lands at Ben Gurion international airport, May 25, 2014 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
President Shimon Peres seen embracing Pope Francis on the red carpet at a welcoming ceremony, as the pope lands at Ben Gurion international airport, May 25, 2014 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Pope Francis on Monday said Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had “courage” after the two accepted his invitation to come to the Vatican to pray with him.

Abbas and Peres “have the courage to move forward”, Francis told reporters on his return flight from a three-day trip to the Middle East in which he made a plea for peace in the region.

Francis said his invitation was not a gesture of public diplomacy and had only a spiritual sense.

“The meeting in the Vatican is to pray together, it’s not a mediation,” the Argentine pope said.

“It is a prayer without discussions,” he added.

Francis made his personal bid for peace on Sunday by calling for the two opposing leaders to join him to pray for an end to their “increasingly unacceptable” conflict following the collapse of US-mediated peace talks.

A senior Palestinian official on Sunday said Abbas had accepted and would visit the Vatican on June 6.

Peres accepted on Monday, telling the pope: “We will be happy to raise up prayer like this at our home, or at yours, in accordance with your generous invitation, according to your choice”.

No official date for the meeting has been set.

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