Politics left behind as Middle East rivals meet for prayer at Vatican

The Vatican has played down any expectations that the Sunday evening meeting between Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas – billed as a “pause from politics” – will lead to any immediate breakthroughs in the region’s tortuous problems and says it is not meddling in regional issues. The Israeli and Palestinian presidents are meeting in an unprecedented prayer meeting with Pope Francis.

No one is presumptuous enough to think peace will break out on Monday.

Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, a church official

The event will mark the first time that Jewish, Christian and Islamic prayers will be held in the tiny city state that is the headquarters of the 1.2 billion member Roman Catholic Church. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made no direct comment on the meeting but in remarks on Sunday at a paramilitary police base in Jerusalem he suggested that prayer is no substitute for security. The key Israeli decisionmaker is not attending and refuses to deal with the Palestinian unity government.