Last month, Pope Francis made a pilgrimage visit to the Holy Land and was inspired to encourage talks between Israel and Palestine by hosting a peace summit at the Vatican and extending the invitation to political leaders of the two opposing nations. Conflicts between Palestine and Israel have long been a sore subject for the citizens in both territories, and Pope Francis was compelled to help bring peace through an amiable meeting on neutral ground. Fortunately, the pontiff received an immediate and positive response when the presidents of the Holy Land accepted the pope’s offer.
All eyes were on Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas—the presidents of Israel and Palestine, respectively—as the two leaders converged at Vatican City on June 8 2014. They met with Pope Francis to commence the pontiff’s arranged summit and discuss crucial matters that would help progress the peace process of the two Middle Eastern nations. Also in attendance were several prominent religious leaders from Jewish, Christian, and Islamic faiths, all of whom were in full support of the pope’s call to action not just for harmony between Israel and Palestine, but for global peace. This also marks the very first time an inter-religious event was held at the Vatican in conjunction with a political assembly.
Given that the guests in attendance came from different religious backgrounds, Pope Francis made sure to hold the summit within the tranquil Vatican gardens, a location within the holy city that bears no distinct religious symbols, to emphasize the element of neutrality. Overall, the meeting proved to be helpful as part of the continuing efforts to end the cultural and political issues separating Israel and Palestine, as both Peres and Abbas gave similar statements on wanting accord between their respective countries.