Pentecost Sunday’s encounter to pray for peace in the Middle East, called for by Pope Francis when he recently travelled to the Holy Land, is widely being seen as an historic event.
Present in the Vatican Gardens for the encounter with the Pope was the Ecumenical Patriarch of Jerusalem, Bartholomew I, together with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
Calling on God to act where human efforts have so far failed, Pope Francis, for the first time ever, convinced the leaders of the long embattled States to come together to pray for a common cause in an unprecedented bid for peace.
Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, told Vatican Radio of his appreciation for the courageous initiative…
Cardinal Arinze describes the meeting as an historic one: “We pray that the effect may last long and be beyond all our hopes in bringing peace to the Holy Land, more immediately to Israel and the Palestinian State but wider to the whole Middle East” he said.
He notes that in that occasion the three religions were giving a good example: “Judaism, Christianity, Islam. It is very impressive to see Pope Francis praying with the Patriarch Bartholomew and then giving the opportunity to the Presidents of Israel and the Palestinian State to voice their own hopes and prayers for peace”.
Of course – Cardinal Arinze says – we need political negotiations for peace: “of course we need governments to sit around a table and examine what are the areas of agreement and disagreement. But even more than that we need God’s blessing. Peace is a gift from God. It is possible that on our knees, in prayer, we may obtain what political negotiations have not been able to obtain” he said.
Cardinal Arinze says in his mind it was impressive to see the leaders of the two communities voice their desire for peace: “Which human being would prefer war to peace? War causes destruction, loss of human life that cannot replaced, broken limbs, broken lives, fathers and mothers losing their children, friends losing their friends. Hatred is not healed by more hatred. It is healed by love” he said.
Concluding, Cardinal Arinze says that “our prayer is that we accompany Pope Francis and the two Presidents and Patriarch Bartholomew in begging God for the gift of peace for the land of Jesus where our Saviour walked; in begging God for smooth and friendly relations between followers of the three religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – which each has places it considers most Sacred in that small area” he said.
“It is possible to live in peace and harmony. It is our prayer and our hope that this will be so.
The event of Pentecost Sunday in the Pope’s own home goes down in history as we all pray to God for the gift of peace” he said.
Peace is a gift of God, but requires our efforts. Let us be people of peace in prayer and deed.