Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will join Pope Francis for an afternoon of prayer at the Vatican on June 8, the Vatican said Thursday.
In a brief statement, the Vatican said both sides accepted the date for the prayer meeting, which Francis suggested during his recent trip to the Middle East. Both men immediately accepted that offer.
Francis has stressed that the Vatican is not seeking to jumpstart peace negotiations between the two sides, but merely bring them together to pray. He said he had arranged for a rabbi and a Muslim cleric to lead the prayers, along with him.
“It will be a prayer meeting. It’s not to do mediation or find solutions,” he told reporters on the flight home from Jerusalem on Monday. “We’ll meet just to pray, and then everyone will go home. But I think praying is important, praying together.”
He called both Abbas and Peres “men of peace.”
The prospects of any breakthrough are slim. Peres, a 90-year-old Nobel peace laureate, holds a largely ceremonial office and is set to step down this summer. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed anger with politicians who have reached out to Abbas at a time when the Palestinian leader is reconciling with the Islamic militant group Hamas. Israel considers Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, a terrorist group.
Viciously by a gull and a crow. This must be some sort of a sign.
The two doves were set upon straight after being released by children standing next to Pope Francis at the Vatican.
Two white doves released by children as a peace gesture from a window of the Apostolic Palace, the Pope’s official residence in the Vatican, have been attacked by other birds – for the second year running.
With tens of thousands of people watching on Sunday the boy and girl, standing alongside Pope Francis, let the doves go over St Peter’s Square to conclude the Vatican’s annual “Caravan of Peace” event.
But straight after they were release, a seagull and a large black crow swept down and set upon the doves.
One dove managed to break free from the gull, losing feathers in the process, while the crow repeatedly pecked at the other dove.
It was not clear how badly injured the doves were as the birds eventually flew off.
The almost exact same thing happened last year at the same event, which is always held on the last Sunday of January, when a single gull attacked the released birds. Then, after being released, the two doves turned round and flew back at the palace.
UPDATE I: National Geographic has a look at what could have prompted the attack.
UPDATE II: Fr Dwight Longenecker who was there writes:
was in St Peter’s Square yesterday for the Angelus and witnessed the children releasing doves from the window of the Apostolic Palace with Pope Francis.
Everyone gasped as a crow and a seagull swooped in to attack the pope’s doves. The Guardian has the story here.
Was this an omen? Here is one interpretation: The black crow reminded me of the raven in Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem The Raven. The raven is a symbol of darkness, death and sin. A carrion bird of doom, the black crow represents the attack of Satan, sin and death on the white birds of hope and innocence released by the white clad vicar of Christ and two children.
What about the seagull? Do you remember the seagull that perched ominously on the chimney the day Pope Francis was elected? Seagulls are horrible birds. Scavengers with a loud cry like a crow’s, they are aggressive, territorial and greedy. The seagull reminded me of another poem: Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. In this poem a sailor kills an albatross and the sailors–lost at sea–hang the albatross around his neck as they are becalmed and one by one descend into starvation and death. The albatross is therefore a symbol of sin and guilt.
So what was the sign in St Peter’s Square yesterday? The Holy Father releasing into the world the symbols of peace and forgiveness–releasing into the world the signs of the gospel of God, the symbol of the Holy Spirit–the white dove. But the dove is attacked by the forces of Satan–the powers of darkness, death and destruction and also attacked by the power of sin and guilt.
I’m happy to say that both doves escaped.
Abbas: Will Not Recognize Israel as Jewish State; Palestine Capital Must Be E. Jerusalem for Peace:
Mahmoud Abbas said in a speech to supporters this past weekend that he will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state and he will not sign a peace deal that does not include eastern Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state, the Jewish Press website reports today (January 13, 2014).
The Palestinian Authority chairman made the inflammatory remarks on January 11 during a visit by hundreds of Palestinian activists to his Ramallah headquarters in Samaria.
Abbas also told the delegation that without East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state, there will be “no peace between us and Israel.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will not sign a peace agreement unless the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
A Prayer for the People of Syria
Almighty eternal God, source of all compassion, the promise of your mercy and saving help fills our hearts with hope. Hear the cries of the people of Syria; bring healing to those suffering from the violence, and comfort to those mourning the dead. Empower and encourage Syria’s neighbors in their care and welcome for refugees. Convert the hearts of those who have taken up arms, and strengthen the resolve of those committed to peace.
O God of hope and Father of mercy, your Holy Spirit inspires us to look beyond ourselves and our own needs. Inspire leaders to choose peace over violence and to seek reconciliation with enemies. Inspire the Church around the world with compassion for the people of Syria, and fill us with hope for a future of peace built on justice for all. We ask this through Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace and Light of the World, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.