Bartholomew at Vatican with Francis, Abbas and Peres

By: Pierre Loup de Raucourt
 

ROME – As the Vatican prepares to host Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres for Common Prayer on Sunday, June 8, 2014, the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew expressed its intention to join this important event for peace.

Often proposals are made, which over time fade away and so remain unfulfilled. Fortunately, this is not the case of an appeal launched a fortnight ago by the Pope when he invited the Palestinian and Israeli Presidents, Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres, to pray together at the Vatican for the gift of peace. At the heart of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the Holy Father received two affirmative and enthusiastic responses. Evidenced by the speed with which all agreed to an early date, the encounter is set for this Sunday, June 8, in the late afternoon.

More recently, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, expressed his desire to join this important and unprecedented meeting. Like Pope Francis, he, too, took time to speak with the two heads of state during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land that was to highlight the fraternal meeting in the Church of the Resurrection, before the tomb. On this occasion, Francis and Bartholomew wrote a statement in which they declared that “it is not weapons, but dialogue, forgiveness and reconciliation that are the only possible means to achieve peace.”

Bartholomew at the Vatican

The sign sent by Patriarch Bartholomew is strong: in going to Rome to pray, he showed his followers and those of the Catholic Church that the gesture of the Holy Sepulchre is not a formal commemoration of a similar accolade made 50 years earlier between Paul VI and Athenagoras.In line with the celebration of Jerusalem, bringing the two successors of the Apostles is real and wants to go beyond the mere ecumenical context.

That being so, it is in favor of peace that the unity of the “sister” Churches is aimed at. The Patriarch said in his speech at the tomb: “We have exchanged an embrace of love, even as we continue along the path toward full communion with one another in love and truth, since no other way leads to life except the way of love, reconciliation, genuine peace and fidelity to the Truth.” A few days later, he issued a tweet in which he states that “peace is a reflection of love: a love that manifests itself in humility, mercy and righteous actions.”

These quick reunions should not obscure the main reason for the meeting: prayer this Sunday is organized primarily for peace between Israel and Palestine, in the presence of Presidents Peres and Abbas. But they are a real testimony to all Christians that prayer for peace is necessary and that it is not differences in theology or rituals that must prevent them from doing so in the unity.

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