More than a month after Middle East peace talks collapsed, Palestinian and Israeli leaders have been brought together by Pope Francis for an unprecedented prayer meeting in the gardens of the Vatican.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres read invocations for peace as did the pontiff who called for courage in pursuing it.
Church officials have played down any expectations of an immediate breakthrough but they have described the gathering as a chance for “politicians to pause and look heavenward”.
The event marked the first time that Jewish, Christian and Islamic prayers were held in the tiny city state that is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.
Responding to an invitation from the Pope during his visit to the Holy Land last month, the leaders also planted an olive tree that the programme calls “an enduring symbol of the mutual desire for peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples”.
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