JERUSALEM (JTA) — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called for “freedom in our sovereign and independent state” during a prayer for peace with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Pope Francis.
Vatican officials had called the service on Sunday at the Vatican a “pause in politics” with no political intentions.
Abbas, Peres and the pope planted an olive tree in Vatican Garden following prayers by Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders and invocations by the three leaders. They then entered the Vatican for a private meeting together.
In his invocation, Abbas spoke about the importance of Jerusalem to the Palestinian people and thanked God for blessing the Palestinians with Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus.
Along with speaking of a sovereign and independent state, the Palestinian leader asked Allah for “a comprehensive and just peace for our country and our region.”
Francis during his invocation said, “More than once we have been close to peace and the evil one has prevented it. That’s why we are here today. We need to lift up our eyes toward heaven and recognize we are the children of one father.”
Peres said in his invocation, “I was young and became old. I experienced war, I tasted peace. Never will I forget the bereaved families — parents and children — who paid the cost of war. And all my life I shall never stop to act for peace, for the sake of the generations to come. Let us all join hands and make it happen.”
The Israeli delegation included rabbis, Druze leaders and imams. The Palestinian delegation included Islamic and Christian leaders. Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Muslim professor Omar Abboud, two friends of the pope’s from Buenos Aires, also attended.
On Saturday, Francis tweeted about the service, “Prayer is all-powerful. Let us use it to bring peace to the Middle East and peace to the world.”
The pope made the invitation following the celebration of Mass in Manger Square in Bethlehem during his visit last month to the Palestinian West Bank city. The offer came a month after the collapse of nine months of U.S.-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Peres will leave office at the end of July.