Vatican City - Pope Francis on Sunday was due to host an unprecedented session of prayers at the Vatican with the presidents of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to try to invoke peace in the Middle East.
Francis invited Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas last month while he was visiting the Holy Land. During the trip, he called the impasse in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations "increasingly unacceptable."
Speaking to the faithful in Saint Peter's Square hours before the peace prayers, the pontiff said he would "invoke from God the gift of peace in the Holy Land, in the Middle East and the entire world."
"The invitation from the Holy Father was courageous," Abbas said in an interview published Sunday by the Italian daily La Repubblica.
"With these prayers, we send out a signal to all followers of the three great religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) and also of other religions: The dream of peace must not die," the Palestinian president said.