Pope Francis, while leading Mass in Bethlehem last weekend, extended an unexpected invitation to Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas—that the two leaders join him at the Vatican for an afternoon prayer. Both men agreed, and now the Vatican has set the date for the peace prayer: June 8, the AP reports.
Unprecedented though this gathering may be, if the Pope’s visit to Israel is any indication, the day’s focus will be prayer, and not politics. According to the AP, the Pope “stressed that he is not seeking to jumpstart peace negotiations, but merely bring the two sides together to pray.”
“It will be a prayer meeting. It’s not to do mediation or find solutions,” he told reporters on the flight home from Jerusalem on Monday. “We’ll meet just to pray, and then everyone will go home. But I think praying is important, praying together.”
According to Reuters, a Jewish and Muslim prayer leader will be present as well. No word if the Pope’s old friend from Buenos Aires, Rabbi Abraham Skorka, will fly in to serve as the Jewish representative.
Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.