Pope Francis seeks to rekindle dream of mideast peace

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Pope Francis seeks to rekindle dream of mideast peace
Rev. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, custodian of the Catholic Church's properties in the Holy Land, right, flanked by Vatican spokesman father Federico Lombardi, speaks during a press conference at the Vatican, Friday, June 6, 2014. Pope Francis is seeking to rekindle the dream of peace by bringing the Israeli and Palestinian presidents together this weekend for a unique common prayer for peace in the Vatican gardens. Holy See officials on Friday said the evening prayer represented a "pause in politics" and had no political aim whatsoever other than to re-ignite the desire for Israeli-Palestinian peace at the political and popular level. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)
Pope Francis arrives at the heliport of Hadassah hospital in mount Scopus Jerusalem, Sunday, May 25, 2014. Pope Francis took a dramatic plunge Sunday into Mideast politics while on his Holy Land pilgrimage, receiving an acceptance from the Israeli and Palestinian presidents to visit him at the Vatican next month to discuss embattled peace efforts. The summit was an important moral victory for the pope, who is named after the peace-loving Francis of Assisi. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, center, walks with Pope Francis upon his arrival at the heliport of Hadassah hospital in mount Scopus Jerusalem, Sunday, May 25, 2014. Pope Francis took a dramatic plunge Sunday into Mideast politics while on his Holy Land pilgrimage, receiving an acceptance from the Israeli and Palestinian presidents to visit him at the Vatican next month to discuss embattled peace efforts. The summit was an important moral victory for the pope, who is named after the peace-loving Francis of Assisi. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
Pope Francis, left, extends his hand to shake hands with one of the children from nearby Palestinian refugee camps who came to welcome him at the Dheisheh camp on the outskirts of the biblical town of Bethlehem, West Bank, Sunday, May 25, 2014. Francis plunged Sunday into Mideast politics during his Holy Land pilgrimage, calling the current stalemate in peace efforts "unacceptable" and winning the acceptance from the Israeli and Palestinian presidents to pay a symbolic visit to the Vatican next month to pray for peace. (AP Photo/Menahem Kahana, Pool)
Pope Francis, right, talks with Israeli President Shimon Peres, during an official arrival ceremony at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, May 25, 2014. Pope Francis took a dramatic plunge Sunday into Mideast politics while on his Holy Land pilgrimage, receiving an acceptance from the Israeli and Palestinian presidents to visit him at the Vatican next month to discuss embattled peace efforts. The summit was an important moral victory for the pope, who is named after the peace-loving Francis of Assisi. Israeli-Palestinian peace talks broke down in late April, and there have been no public high-level meetings for a year. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
Israeli President Shimon Peres, right, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas shake hands during the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa at the King Hussein Convention Centre at the Dead Sea in Jordan Sunday May 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Pool, Jim Young)
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VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Francis is seeking to rekindle the dream of peace by bringing the Israeli and Palestinian presidents together this weekend for a unique common prayer for peace in the Vatican gardens.

It will be the first time such a meeting has ever taken place at the Vatican and marks the first time in over a year that Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have met.

Vatican officials insisted Friday the Sunday evening prayer represented a "pause in politics" and had no political aim other than to re-ignite the desire for Israeli-Palestinian peace that was perhaps at its high when Peres and Abbas signed the Oslo peace accords in 1993.

The latest round of U.S.-sponsored peace talks collapsed in failure in April.

"Naturally no one has the presumption to think that after this peace will suddenly break out in the Holy Land," the Rev. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, custodian of the Catholic Church's properties in the Holy Land, told reporters.

"The intent of this initiative is to reopen a path that has perhaps been closed for some time, to recreate the desire, the possibility, the dream."

The Vatican on Friday released the details of how the event will unfold, a delicate balancing act of both religious and diplomatic protocol that will see Jewish, Muslim and Christians praying for peace in the shadow of St. Peter's Basilica.

Francis is expected to greet Peres and Abbas separately at the Vatican hotel where he lives and have a brief one-on-one with each of the men. Francis will be joined by the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, demonstrating a united Christian front for the event.

The four will then travel to a field in the Vatican gardens for the prayer ceremony. It is divided into three parts, Jewish, Christian and Muslim, with each faith group reading texts from their respective holy books that concern three common themes: creation, a prayer for forgiveness, and a prayer for peace.

Francis, Peres and Abbas will then deliver their own remarks, and together with Bartholomew the men will plant an olive tree in a gesture of peace.

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