Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano announced on Sunday, June 8, 2014, for the first time ever Islamic prayers were recited at the Vatican. This event was part of Pope Francis’ interfaith Middle East peace prayer initiative. In attendance were the Presidents of Palestine and Israel, Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres, along with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I.
The peoples of the Holy Land gave thanks to God in three separate phases, each according to their own tradition. Jews, Christians and Muslims called upon God to ask for forgiveness and appealed for peace. There have been prayers for peace in the Middle East in the past, but none of them were quite like this. Alongside the Pope throughout the encounter was the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, a reminder that Christian unity is also in need of peace.
Pope Francis, Israeli President Peres and Palestinian Authority President Abbas planted an olive tree as a symbol of peace. Each man took his turn expressing the desire for co-existence. An ensemble of Jews, Muslims and Christians played classical music during the interfaith prayer ceremony.
During his visit to the Holy land last month, Pope Francis invited Peres and Abbas to join him at the Vatican. “We have heard a summons, and we must respond. It is the summons to break the spiral of hatred and violence, and to break it by one word alone, the word brother,” Pope Francis declared.
Pope Francis’ welcomed the delegations to the Vatican saying, “I am profoundly grateful to you for accepting my invitation to come here and to join in imploring from God the gift of peace. It is my hope that this meeting will mark the beginning of a new journey where we seek the things that unite, so as to overcome the things that divide…” Click here for Pope Francis’ full comments.
Israeli President Shimon Peres invocation comments began, “I have come from the Holy City of Jerusalem to thank you for your exceptional invitation. The Holy City of Jerusalem is the beating heart of the Jewish People. In Hebrew, our ancient language, the word Jerusalem and the word for peace share the same root. And indeed peace is the vision of Jerusalem…” To view President Peres’ full statement click here.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas remarked, “…I beseech You, O Lord, on behalf of my people, the people of Palestine, Moslems, Christians and Samaritans who are craving for a just peace, dignified living, and liberty, I beseech you, Oh Lord, to make prosperous and promising the future of our people, and freedom in our sovereign and independent state; Grant, O Lord, our region and its people security, safety and stability. Save our blessed city Jerusalem; the first Kiblah, the second Holy Mosque, the third of the two Holy Mosques, and the city of blessings and peace with all that surround it..…” President Abbas' full remarks are available here.
Some people are defending the interfaith event while others have expressed grave concerns. National Catholic writer Cindy Wooden wrote, “When leaders of different religions come together and pray for a common cause, they are not only appealing to God, they also are showing the world they believe that followers of different religions are still brothers and sisters before the one who created them.”
Dean Garrison of DC Clothesline expressed a different opinion, “Some theorize that Pope Francis is part of the globalist movement and looking to usher in the age of One World Religion. Whether or not that is the case, one has to wonder how the families of those Christians who have been slaughtered in the name of Islam feel about this. From my perspective this is akin to inviting a family of cannibals to dinner. You can offer them the most wonderfully prepared meal ever but chances are very good that you will still be the main course. This pope is playing some very dangerous games.”