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President Shimon Peres left for Rome Sunday to participate in a prayer for peace in the Middle East ceremony with major religious and spiritual representatives from Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Druze communities. Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas will arrive later in the day separately from Egypt.
The initiative was arranged by Pope Francis following his visit to the region where the Pope visited Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories at the end of May.
The prayer ceremony will be held in the Vatican and under special request from Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef and President Peres will be held in a neutral part of the Vatican, not in a church or chapel, as to not violate religious laws for observant Jews. The chief rabbi has also given his blessing for President Peres to participate in the ceremony.
Each religious group will read texts from their faiths: the Torah, Bible and New Testament and the Koran. Following the readings, the Pope, Peres and Abbas are to read a religious text of their choosing.
The ceremony will be televised live and is expected to be highly viewed as it is the first ceremony of its kind.
Head of the Franciscan Order in the Middle East, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa , who is in charge of organizing the event stated on the ceremony that, “Nobody is fooling themselves that peace will break out in the Holy Land. But this time to stop and breathe has been absent for some time…. The pope wants to look beyond, upwards…. Not everything is decided by politics.”
Amir Tsarfati is the founder and president of Behold Israel, a news site to correct the scarcity in trustworthy reportage on issues and events impacting Israel, and to resolve the uncertainty about who or what to believe.