Abbas, Peres Accept Francis' Invite to Pray

Pope makes a breakthrough in visit to Bethlehem

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted May 25, 2014 6:07 AM CDT

(Newser) – The offices of the Israeli and Palestinian presidents are confirming that they have accepted an invitation from Pope Francis to visit the Vatican together next month. At the end of an open-air Mass in the biblical town of Bethlehem today, Francis invited the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to the Vatican to pray for peace. The offices of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres both said they would attend.

The 90-year-old Peres, who is stepping down this summer, has been a fervent supporter of Mideast peace efforts. His decision risks upsetting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is angry about outreach efforts by other politicians at a time when Abbas is reconciling with the Islamic militant group Hamas.

Pope Francis prays at Israel's separation barrier on his way to a mass in Manger Square next to the Church of the Nativity, traditionally believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Sunday, May 25, 2014. Francis called the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate unacceptable...
Pope Francis prays at Israel's separation barrier on his way to a mass in Manger Square next to the Church of the Nativity, traditionally believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ in the West Bank...   (Ariel Schalit)
Pope Francis is welcomed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas upon his arrival to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Sunday, May 25, 2014.
Pope Francis is welcomed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas upon his arrival to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Sunday, May 25, 2014.   (Andrew Medichini)
Pope Francis waves as he arrives in Bethlehem on Sunday, May 25, 2014. Francis gave a symbolic nod to Palestinian aspirations for their own state as he began a busy day of his Mideast pilgrimage.
Pope Francis waves as he arrives in Bethlehem on Sunday, May 25, 2014. Francis gave a symbolic nod to Palestinian aspirations for their own state as he began a busy day of his Mideast pilgrimage.   (Menahem Kahana)
Pope Francis waves upon his arrival at the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Sunday, May 25, 2014. Pope Francis landed Sunday in the West Bank town of Bethlehem in a symbolic nod to Palestinian aspirations for their own state as he began a busy second day of his Mideast...
Pope Francis waves upon his arrival at the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Sunday, May 25, 2014. Pope Francis landed Sunday in the West Bank town of Bethlehem in a symbolic nod to Palestinian aspirations...   (Mohamad Torokman)
Pope Francis is welcomed upon his arrival at the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Sunday, May 25, 2014. Pope Francis landed Sunday in the West Bank town of Bethlehem in a symbolic nod to Palestinian aspirations for their own state as he began a busy second day of his...
Pope Francis is welcomed upon his arrival at the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Sunday, May 25, 2014. Pope Francis landed Sunday in the West Bank town of Bethlehem in a symbolic nod to Palestinian aspirations...   (Mohamad Torokman)
Pope Francis, onboard a Jordanian military helicopter, arrives in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Sunday, May 25, 2014. Francis landed Sunday in the West Bank town of Bethlehem in a symbolic nod to Palestinian aspirations for their own state as he began a busy second day of his...
Pope Francis, onboard a Jordanian military helicopter, arrives in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Sunday, May 25, 2014. Francis landed Sunday in the West Bank town of Bethlehem in a symbolic nod to...   (Menahem Kahana)
Pope Francis alights from a helicopter upon his arrival at the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Sunday, May 25, 2014. Pope Francis landed Sunday in the West Bank town of Bethlehem in a symbolic nod to Palestinian aspirations for their own state as he began a busy second day...
Pope Francis alights from a helicopter upon his arrival at the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Sunday, May 25, 2014. Pope Francis landed Sunday in the West Bank town of Bethlehem in a symbolic nod to Palestinian...   (MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)
Pope Francis waves as he rides on a vehicle passing by Israel's separation barrier on his way to a mass in Manger Square next to the Church of the Nativity, traditionally believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Sunday, May 25,...
Pope Francis waves as he rides on a vehicle passing by Israel's separation barrier on his way to a mass in Manger Square next to the Church of the Nativity, traditionally believed to be the birthplace...   (Ariel Schalit)
Pope Francis, center in white, onboard a Jordanian military helicopter, arrives in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Sunday, May 25, 2014. Francis landed Sunday in the West Bank town of Bethlehem in a symbolic nod to Palestinian aspirations for their own state as he began a busy second...
Pope Francis, center in white, onboard a Jordanian military helicopter, arrives in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Sunday, May 25, 2014. Francis landed Sunday in the West Bank town of Bethlehem in...   (Menahem Kahana)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Pope Francis hug each other as Francis arrives at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Sunday, May 25, 2014.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Pope Francis hug each other as Francis arrives at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Sunday, May 25, 2014.   (Nasser Nasser)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Pope Francis inspect an honor guard as Francis arrives at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Sunday, May 25, 2014. Francis landed Sunday in the West Bank town of Bethlehem in a symbolic nod to Palestinian aspirations for...
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Pope Francis inspect an honor guard as Francis arrives at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Sunday, May 25, 2014....   (Nasser Nasser)
Pope Francis greets people as he arrives to the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Sunday May 25, 2014. Pope Francis is paying a three day visit to Jordan, West Bank and Israel.
Pope Francis greets people as he arrives to the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Sunday May 25, 2014. Pope Francis is paying a three day visit to Jordan, West Bank and Israel.   (Dusan Vranic)
Pope Francis reaches to a girl after a mass in Bethlehem, West Bank, Sunday May 25, 2014. Pope Francis is paying a three-day visit to Jordan, West Bank and Israel.
Pope Francis reaches to a girl after a mass in Bethlehem, West Bank, Sunday May 25, 2014. Pope Francis is paying a three-day visit to Jordan, West Bank and Israel.   (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)
Pope Francis prays at Israel's separation barrier on his way to a mass in Manger Square next to the Church of the Nativity, traditionally believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem on Sunday, May 25, 2014.
Pope Francis prays at Israel's separation barrier on his way to a mass in Manger Square next to the Church of the Nativity, traditionally believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem on...   (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
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