Peres said that “perhaps for the first time in history, the Holy Father is a leader who’s respected, not just by a lot of people, but also by different religions and their representatives,
“In the past, most wars were motivated by the idea of nationhood. Today, however, wars are incited above all using religion as an excuse,” Peres told the Catholic magazine, Famiglia Cristiana, ahead of the papal meeting yesterday.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, confirmed that Mr Peres, who ended his presidential term in July, had requested the meeting and told the Pope about his idea. Pope Francis, however, did not commit himself to the proposal.
“The Pope listened” to the idea just as he always does with any peace initiative, “showing his interest, his attention and encouragement,” Fr Lombardi said.
But “the Pope made no personal commitment” and reminded Mr Peres that the Vatican has the Pontifical Councils for Interreligious Dialogue and for Justice and Peace – two offices “that are suitable” for supporting or following such initiatives, Fr Lombardi said.
Pope Francis also met later in the day with Jordan’s Prince El Hassan bin Talal, who, for the past four decades, has worked to promote interfaith understanding and dialogue around the world.
Mr Peres said Pope Francis would be the best person to head such a world body: “In fact, perhaps he is the only leader who is truly respected” in the world, said Mr Peres, who was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1994 with Palestine Liberation Organisation Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Premier Yitzak Rabin.