President Shimon Peres, this morning (Tuesday, 27 May 2014), welcomed Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I
to the President's Residence in Jerusalem. The two held a working meeting, toured the garden of the President's Residence and spent a short while together in the synagogue at the residence.
At the beginning of the working meeting President Peres welcomed his guest and said, "You came to support peace; peace between the Catholic and the Orthodox Church and peace across the Middle East. The meeting between religious authorities and the political establishment may help to find a compromise and a solution between the parties of the conflict. There is no other land so holy and so conflicted and we must save the holiness from the conflict."
President Peres addressed relations between Christians and Jews and said, "Our relations with the Christian world are at their best, there is an outstanding Christian community in Israel. They are part of the fabric of our society. Our government feels it is our responsibility to guarantee free approach to every holy site and the safety of pilgrims, to enable everyone to pray to the Lord in their own language without restriction. Unfortunately, I know some communities in the Middle East are targets for hatred and discrimination, we stand with you. The Lord made each of us in his image and to be different is not a son, everyone is equal. As Pope Francis said, and I think you believe also, we are not just neighbors but brothers, all children of Abraham. The fact that there are differences may enrich us rather than lead to war."
President Peres also addressed the wider situation in the region and said, "The Middle East is suffering from terror, it is tearing countries apart. There is too much blood being spilt, it's a tragic situation, I don't know if civil war brings to poverty or poverty to civil war but we must overcome both. The better the situation for our neighbors the better it will be for us. Spiritual authority can bring down hatred and bring an end to terror. It can support peace and spread it. We were born not to hate but to live together."
Patriarch Bartholomew thanked President Peres for his welcome and said, "Your excellency, we came with his Holiness the Pope to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the historic meeting in this great land of our predecessors
who opened a new way in our bilateral relations. Since then we have established a theological dialogue between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. We try through this dialogue and good relations not only to solve our differences which exist but to contribute to establishing a permanent peace, this is our conviction. Unity among faiths will be important for unity and peace around the globe." He continued and said, "We shall continue work in this direction, despite difficulties we face where we live. We want to be equal to other citizens. As you said, the right to be equal includes the right to be different. We are different from the majority but we are faithful to our tradition."
Patriarch Bartholomew concluded his remarks and said, "We are grateful for this warm welcome throughout our whole stay in Israel. We leave with gratitude as well as great impressions. We shall always pray for the health, good life, prosperity and peace of this noble nation and its people. We shall also pray for peace in this region and the world. Twice a day in the morning and the afternoon we pray for peace in the world and for unity of all, we shall continue to pray and to act."