Israeli President Shimon Peres warned Pope Francis Tuesday that the Middle East is “disintegrating” and that the pontiff “has an important role” to play in bringing peace to the region and the world. During their half-hour conversation, Peres said the Middle East is in “real existential danger” and cited the severe lack of employment, of food and water. He warned that if these problems are not resolved, “violence and terror will gain a central place, as dangerous weapons fall into the hands of extremists.”
An Israeli government statement said Peres spoke of the danger of Iran’s nuclear-weapons program and Syria’s “huge quantities of chemical weapons.” He told the Pope that Iran “must be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons and that Syrian chemical weapons must not fall into irresponsible hands.”
Peres welcomed the recent meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and Arab League foreign ministers in Washington. He expressed hope for talks between Israel and the Palestinians under the leadership of Abu Mazen who, he said, is a “genuine partner for peace.” In its statement, the Vatican said Pope Francis and Peres expressed hopes for a speedy resumption of peace talks and an agreement that draws on “courageous decisions” and the support of the international community.
A resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would contribute to peace and stability throughout the region, the Vatican said. The Israeli statement said Pope Francis suggested creating “a global meeting of hope with the heads of all the world's faiths and to come out against violence and terror.”
The Pope also condemned anti-Semitism, saying it goes against the beliefs of Christianity and that it “must be opposed in every country in the world and every corner of the globe,” the Israeli statement continued. Peres praised Pope Francis for his example, noting his humility and pursuit of peace.