World

Pope says 99 percent of Vatican opposed idea for a Mideast prayer summit, but then came around

  • From left, Israel's President Shimon Peres, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, Pope Francis, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas pose for photographers at the end of an evening of peace prayers in the Vatican gardens, Sunday, June 8, 2014. Pope Francis waded head-first into Mideast peace-making Sunday, welcoming the Israeli and Palestinian presidents to the Vatican for an evening of peace prayers just weeks after the last round of U.S.-sponsored negotiations collapsed. (AP Photo/Max Rossi, Pool)

    From left, Israel's President Shimon Peres, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, Pope Francis, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas pose for photographers at the end of an evening of peace prayers in the Vatican gardens, Sunday, June 8, 2014. Pope Francis waded head-first into Mideast peace-making Sunday, welcoming the Israeli and Palestinian presidents to the Vatican for an evening of peace prayers just weeks after the last round of U.S.-sponsored negotiations collapsed. (AP Photo/Max Rossi, Pool)  (The Associated Press)

  • Pope Francis, center, delivers his message as he is flanked by Israel's President Shimon Peres, left, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during an evening of peace prayers in the Vatican gardens, Sunday, June 8, 2014. Pope Francis waded head-first into Mideast peace-making Sunday, welcoming the Israeli and Palestinian presidents to the Vatican for an evening of peace prayers just weeks after the last round of U.S.-sponsored negotiations collapsed. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

    Pope Francis, center, delivers his message as he is flanked by Israel's President Shimon Peres, left, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during an evening of peace prayers in the Vatican gardens, Sunday, June 8, 2014. Pope Francis waded head-first into Mideast peace-making Sunday, welcoming the Israeli and Palestinian presidents to the Vatican for an evening of peace prayers just weeks after the last round of U.S.-sponsored negotiations collapsed. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)  (The Associated Press)

Pope Francis says 99 percent of Vatican officials initially opposed his idea of bringing the Israeli and Palestinian presidents together for a prayer summit, but eventually they came around.

Francis hosted Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas on the lawn of the Vatican gardens on June 8 for an evening of Jewish, Christian and Muslim prayers, just weeks after the latest round of U.S.-sponsored peace talks collapsed. The meeting was never aimed at restarting official talks, but merely to serve as a potent symbol of mutual coexistence and respect.

In an interview published Friday with the Barcelona newspaper "La Vanguardia," Francis acknowledged the idea was completely novel and wasn't easy to pull off. But he said the purely religious act had one aim: "to open a window to the world."