Israeli and Palestinian presidents to meet at Vatican on June 8

by Philip Pullella, Reuters  |  published on May 29, 2014

VATICAN CITY – Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will meet at the Vatican and pray for peace together at an unprecedented gathering on June 8, the Vatican said on Thursday.

In one of his boldest political gestures since his election in March, 2013, Pope Francis invited the two leaders to come to the Vatican and hold a joint prayer meeting with him during the pontiff’s trip to the Holy Land last week.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the two had accepted that the meeting would take place on a Sunday afternoon. That morning the pope will be presiding at a Pentacost Sunday service in St Peter’s Square.

The pope, who made the surprise invitation at the end of a Mass in Bethlehem last Saturday, told reporters on the plane returning to Rome that he was not getting directly involved in the stalled Mideast peace process, something he said would be “crazy on my part”.

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