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.