Photo: Pope Francis and Israel’s President Shimon Peres talk after planting an olive tree as a symbol for peace after their meeting at the president’s residence May 26. Pope Francis has put a twist on the interreligious prayer gathering by inviting political leaders, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, “to come to the Vatican to pray together with me for peace.” (CNS photo/LOsservatore Romano)


Twice have I blogged on this coming Sunday’s historic meeting at the Vatican when Pope Francis will welcome the President of Israel, Shimon Peres, and the President of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, to join him in an encounter to be together to pray for peace in the Middle East. My first blog had the original date of June 6 while it now is scheduled for this Sunday, June 8, the Solemnity of Pentecost — a day that has enormous significance for Christians. The second blog also did not have the news that the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, will join the pope and the two presidents Sunday afternoon in the Vatican Gardens.


Today’s Bulletin from the Vatican gives an outline of the ceremony which begins in the Gardens at 7 p.m. Rome time (1 p.m. our time). There will be three parts of the ceremony: first, the Jewish community with prayer and music in Hebrew; second the Christian community with prayer and music in English and Italian, and third, the Muslim community with their prayer and music in Arabic. Then the Holy Father will give a brief reflection/invocation and will invite each president to do the same.  After that, the Pope, Patriarch and two presidents will exchange a greeting of peace and the presidents, in the presence of Francis and Bartholomew, will plant an olive tree and all four will go to the beautiful Casina Pio IV to greet the delegations and have a final private conversation after that.


What an extraordinary meeting this will be. And how much it merits the support of our prayers as we prepare through the Novena to the Holy Spirit to celebrate the great day of the coming of the Holy Spirit to lead us and the Church forward in the journey of faith and hope and love.