Pope Francis waded head-first into Mideast peace-making today, welcoming the Israeli and Palestinian presidents to the Vatican for an evening of peace prayers just weeks after the last round of US-sponsored negotiations collapsed. Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas embraced in the foyer of the Vatican hotel where Francis lives, joked together and sat on either side of Francis for an hour-long invocation of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim prayers in the Vatican gardens.
Francis told the two men, who signed the Oslo peace accords in 1993, that he hoped the summit would mark "a new journey" toward peace. He said too many children had been killed by war and violence, and that their memory should instill the strength and patience to work for dialogue and coexistence. "Peacemaking calls for courage, much more so than warfare," he said. "It calls for the courage to say yes to encounter and no to conflict." Vatican officials have insisted that Francis had no political agenda other than to rekindle a desire for peace. But the meeting could have greater symbolic significance, given that Francis was able to bring them together at all so soon after peace talks failed and at a time that Israel is trying to isolate Abbas. Click for more. (Read more Mahmoud Abbas stories.)