05/26/2014, 00.00
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Pope to Shimon Peres: I pray for you and know that you pray for me

In the meeting between Pope Francis and Israeli President, the request for free access to the Holy Places; for equal dignity among Jews, Christians and Muslims; for full citizenship of Christians (and other communities ) in the State ; to ensure the universal value of Jerusalem. Peres calls the pope "a rock against any attempt to link religion with terrorism". The meeting with the Chief Rabbis of Israel. Jews and Christians must deepen the spiritual bond that unites them.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - "Mr President, you know that I pray for you and I know that you pray for me" : this was Pope Francis' revelation to Shimon Peres, in addition to the prepared text speaking off the cuff , it reveals the heart of the message and the strength of the Argentine pope on this difficult visit to the Holy Land . This strength was also recognized by President Peres, who today welcoming the pontiff  to his residence, he stressed that his presence has the power to bring together people of different religions and rejuvenate the peace process . "I believe - he added - that your visit and appeal for peace will produce an echo across the region and will help to revitalize efforts to complete the peace process between us and the Palestinians based on two states living in peace". Peres also called the Pope "a rock against any attempt to link religion with terrorism".

In his speech the Pope's mentioned the problems facing the State of Israel: free access to the holy sites for pilgrims and residents; Christians' request to be recognized as equal citizens and to see their rights respected (along with those of other communities and religions) ; the universal value of Jerusalem as a "treasure for all humanity".

And while he guaranteed the desire of Christians to "an integral part of society and participate fully in its civic, political and cultural affairs" who wish to foster "reconciliation and harmony" but which first demands "respect for the dignity and freedom of every human person, which Jews, Christians and Muslims alike believe to be created by God and destined for eternal life", he also hoped "all parties avoid initiatives and actions which contradict their stated determination to reach a true agreement and that they tirelessly work for peace, with decisiveness and tenacity".

The reference alludes to the proliferation of illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories and East Jerusalem, as well as threats to the security of Israel.

Francis condemned "the use of violence and terrorism" as opposed to the desire for peace,  but also "all forms of discrimination on the basis of race or religion, attempts to impose one's own point of view at the expense of the rights of others, anti-Semitism in all its possible expressions, and signs of intolerance directed against individuals or places of worship, be they Jewish, Christian or Muslim".

After once again assuring his "constant supplication to God", he turned his attention to "all those afflicted by the continuing crises in the Middle East.  I pray that their sufferings may soon be alleviated by an honourable resolution of hostilities."  And he saluted and wished "Peace be upon Israel and the entire Middle East!  Shalom".

Before the speeches, interspersed with songs in Hebrew, Spanish and Neapolitan - by two singers and a choir of boys and girls - the Pope and Peres had planted an olive tree in the garden of the Presidential residence.

Previously, Francis had had a meeting with the Chief Rabbis of Israel, Yona Metzger of the Ashkenazi tradition, and Shlomo Amar of the Sephardic tradition. With these, and other personalities of Judaism he spent for about half an hour, in a celebration of Psalm 133: "Behold, how sweet and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity".

In his brief speech, the pontiff recalled the friendship he lived in Buenos Aires with "many Jewish brothers", including Rabbi Abraham Skoka, who accompanies him on this visit .

He then recalled the journey of dialogue between the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews , and suggested some tracks of commitment to Catholic-Jewish dialogue. First to " to reflect deeply on the spiritual significance of the bond existing between us ". "It is - he said - a bond whose origins are from on high, one which transcends our own plans and projects, and one which remains intact despite all the difficulties which, sadly, have marked our relationship in the past".

"On the part of Catholics, there is a clear intention to reflect deeply on the significance of the Jewish roots of our own faith.  I trust that, with your help, on the part of Jews too, there will be a continued and even growing interest in knowledge of Christianity, also in this holy land to which Christians trace their origins. This is especially to be hoped for among young people".

This will lead to greater collaboration in society: " Together, we can make a great contribution to the cause of peace; together, we can bear witness, in this rapidly changing world, to the perennial importance of the divine plan of creation; together, we can firmly oppose every form of anti-Semitism and all other forms of discrimination." He concluded with the greeting " Shalom", which has become his final salute at every meeting.


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