A group of priests and pilgrims gathered this afternoon to pray in Bethlehem, two days ahead of a prayer encounter between Pope Francis and Israeli and Palestinian leaders in the Vatican.
During the Pope's recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he invited Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to join him in the Vatican for prayer, along with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. The event is scheduled for this Sunday.
In the lead-up to Sunday's prayer in the Vatican, today in the Cremisan valley, the "green lung" of Bethlehem, which is on the planned route of the separation wall, Fr. Abuna Mario Cornioli, a priest in Beit Jala, celebrated Mass.
He, along with other priests, celebrate rites and liturgies each Friday among the olive groves, which will be removed for the separation wall.
The intention for today was that President Shimon Peres and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas find an answer during Sunday’s meeting with Pope Francis.
"We have been celebrating Eucharistic liturgies, Rosaries and Stations of the Cross since October 2011 to ask to stop the construction of the Wall in the Valley," explained Fr. Abuna Mario to Fides Agency, "simply because we believe that prayer is also the most effective tool to ask for peace and an end to injustice. So when we heard the Pope who in Bethlehem, at Manger Square, offered 'his home in the Vatican' to host the meeting with the two Presidents and invoke the start of the gift of peace, it was a great joy full of emotion for us."
Yesterday, the Assembly of Bishops of the Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land published a letter calling on all Christians to pray for peace at the time of the meeting, in particular observing two minutes of silence and prayer at 7 p.m. on Sunday, at the sound of the bells.