The unexpected invitation Pope Francis made on Sunday to the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and to the Israeli President Shimon Peres to come to “his home to pray to God for the gift of peace” made world headlines.
The surprise invitation came after the recitation of the Regina Coeli following the celebration of Mass in Bethlehem’s Manger Square.
Director of the Vatican Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi SJ, told Vatican Radio’s Philippa Hitchen that before making an announcement regarding the outcome of the Pope’s invitation, the Vatican is awaiting the official confirmation from the persons involved, but he says he is hopeful that the meeting will take place very soon.
Lombardi says concrete details of the meeting will be announced when the two invited persons give their official answer “in total freedom and reflection”.
He says he hopes it will not be long but “ we need some time” to iron out the details.
He also says that probably during the meeting between Pope Francis and Shimon Peres on Monday morning, the invitation will possibly be discussed again.
Hitchen points out that the Pope invites the two leaders to come to “my home,” presumably meaning his residence at Casa Santa Marta. But Lombardi explains that he means the Vatican: “it will be in the Vatican but where exactly we do not know, nor do we know how many people will be present. We need some patience to let this great initiative be concrete”.
In the rest of the interview Lombardi speaks of the Pope’s decision to make an unscheduled stop at the separation barrier in the West Bank, a decision made with “profound reflection”. He describes this event as particularly characteristic for Pope Francis as – he says – the Pope loves silent prayer: “He did not want to say big words” with his gesture he is saying: “I take part in the suffering and in the problems of the people who live with this wall”.
Lombardi also speaks of the meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew I and of the Pope’s joy for this meeting. The invitation for this meeting, he reveals, was made during the inauguration of Francis’ Pontificate…”.
By: Vatican Radio