Sunday was an historic day at the Vatican, where His Holiness Pope Francis first began by celebrating Sunday Mass on the Solemnity of Pentecost. Preaching inside a packed St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis spent his sermon talking of the Holy Spirit as the Master of Life. He said “The Holy Spirit teaches us the way, the Spirit reminds us of the words of Jesus and explains them to us, He enables us to pray and to call God ‘Father’, He enables us to speak to our fellows in fraternal dialogue and enables us to speak in prophecy.”
After the conclusion of the Mass, the Pope went to the Apostolic Palace where from a window high above St. Peter’s Square he delivered his Regina Coeli address. He continued on the themes explored in his sermon from mass, saying “The event of Pentecost marks the birth of the Church and the Church’s public manifestation: two things strike us [about the Church]: the Church is one that surprises us and stirs things up.” Pope Francis also expressed his gratitude to all those praying for his meeting later that day with President Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine and President Shimon Peres of Israel. “I wish to thank all those who, personally and in community, have prayed and are praying for this meeting, and who will be united spiritually to our supplication.”
Then that evening, the pope’s guests began to arrive at the Vatican’s Domus Sanctae Marthae for the ‘Invocation for Peace.’ His invitation to the two Middle-Eastern leaders to come and pray at the Vatican became one of the defining moments of his recent trip to the Holy Land. The first to arrive was Israeli President Shimon Peres who was greeted by Pope Francis. He was soon followed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas whom the Holy Father also took time to meet and greet at the entrance to his home. After privately meeting with both leaders, the three men came together with both presidents embracing.
The men were then joined by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of the Constantinople, the first among equals in the Eastern Orthodox Church. They then proceeded outside where they took a van ride together travelling from the Pope’s residence at Domus Sanctae Marthae across the territory of the tiny Vatican City State. The men then arrived in the Vatican gardens where the invocation for peace was held, waling together side-by-side.
As they took their places, they were joined in the garden by representatives of the three monotheistic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The Jewish community first offered prayers in Hebrew, including a number of different psalms read and sung aloud.
Next, the Christian community offered prayers read by religious and laity, including His Eminence Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace as well as by Patriarch Bartholomew.
Finally, prayers then came from the Muslim Community and were delivered in Arabic, and included a short musical meditation.
The prayers were then followed by an address from Pope Francis to the gathering. He noted the countless people from around the globe who joined them in prayer on this day, to pray that adversaries would become brothers and sisters. The pope said “Peacemaking calls for courage, much more so than warfare. It calls for the courage to say yes to encounter and no to conflict: yes to dialogue and no to violence; yes to negotiations and no to hostilities; yes to respect for agreements and no to acts of provocation; yes to sincerity and no to duplicity. All of this takes courage, it takes strength and tenacity.” He said history too often saw the use of force try and resolve problems. He rather called for those gathered to find the courage to ask God to help them find peace.
President Peres then addressed the gathering, saying both Israelis and Palestinians ache for peace. He said that “without peace, we are not complete, and we have yet to achieve the mission of humanity.”
President Abbas then spoke, calling their meeting the Pope’s efforts a truthful attempt at achieving peace. He said that they want peace and prosperity for their own and for their neighbors.
After the gathering, the men travelled together throughout the gardens before bidding farewell and going their separate ways.