Pope Invites Israeli, Palestinian Leaders to Vatican for Peace Talks

At the end of an outdoor Mass on Sunday in the West Bank, Pope Francis invited the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to travel to the Vatican for a "peace initiative." It was the second day of his three-day trip to the Middle East.

The invitation came after Francis made a surprise stop at the wall separating Palestine from Israel, where he prayed with his hand on the barrier. CNN reports that Francis said, at the end of the Mass:

"In this, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, I wish to invite you, President Mahmoud Abbas, together with President Shimon Peres, to join me in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace. ... I offer my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer."

Earlier that day, speaking alongside Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Pope Francis called for the recognition of a Palestinian state and did the same for the state of Israel, urging for "the acknowledgment by all of the right of two states to exist and to live in peace and security within internationally recognized borders," adding:

"I can only express my profound hope that all will refrain from initiatives and actions which contradict the stated desire to reach a true agreement, and that peace will be pursued with tireless determination and tenacity."

CNN reports that both sides have accepted the "peace initiative" invitation.

[Image via AP]