Pope Francis hosted the presidents of Israel and Palestine to the Vatican for a prayer summit on Sunday evening in a move meant to inspire a renewed interests in peace talks from both sides.
Before the service, Francis welcomed Israeli President Shimon Peres and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas for a private meeting with each leader at his residence in the Vatican hotel.
The symbolic gesture comes just weeks after U.S.-sponsored peace talks collapsed between the two parties.
The service was held this evening in the Vatican Garden, where prayers were delivered in Italian, Hebrew, Arabic and English. The evening prayers focused on themes common among all three religions represented at the meeting — Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The Orthodox Christian church’s spiritual leader was also be in attendance.
According to Vatican officials, the summit is not a political move and is meant to serve as a “time-out” from political negotiations. No tangible results are expected from the meeting, especially considering Peres does not hold an official role during peace negotiations.
The three leaders are expected to make remarks, shake hands and plant an olive tree to represent a sign of peace. Peres and Abbas are scheduled to meet privately afterwards.
Sunday’s events developed out of an invitation Pope Francis issued to both the leaders just two weeks ago while he was in Bethlehem during his Middle East tour.