Pope Francis met Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Vatican for a group prayer session and private peace talks.
The attendance of Abbas and Peres is “a great symbol of brotherhood,” Francis said during the ceremony, which was held in the Vatican gardens. The living have a responsibility to future generations and to those who have been killed to find peace, Francis said.
“We have tried many times and for many years to resolve our conflicts with our strength as well as our weapons, many moments of hostility and darkness, a lot of blood spilled, many lives broken, many hopes buried,” Francis said. “But our efforts have been in vain. Now, Lord, let it be you to give us peace.”
Francis, 77, ventured into Mideast peace efforts after U.S.-brokered talks collapsed in April. Israel officially broke off the already troubled negotiations after Abbas’s Palestinian Authority agreed to form a government backed by the Hamas group that controls the Gaza Strip and is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and European Union.
Palestinians say Israel undermined peacemaking, in part by continuing to build settler homes on land they claim for a future state.
Peres is due to leave office in July.