Yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI asked Catholics throughout the world to join in prayer for the peace conference scheduled for tomorrow in Annapolis, Maryland. His request came during his address before the midday Angelus, after concelebrating Mass with 23 new cardinals. Recalling the 60-year history of conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, he said, "I ask you to join yourselves to the day of prayer declared today by the U.S. bishops' conference to implore the Spirit of God for peace for that region so dear to us and to give wisdom and courage to all the protagonists in this important meeting."
The U.S. Bishops' Conference ("USCCB") request for prayer appears on the USCCB website with a letter from Cardinal Francis George. In addition to calling for a day of prayer yesterday, the Sunday before the peace conference, that letter also appeals for prayer to continue in the coming weeks and months. Mentioning that the USCCB has worked and prayed for peace in that region for many years, Cardinal George added:
"This call to prayer has a special timeliness this week, but the path to a just peace will be long and will stretch beyond the peace conference itself. In the weeks and months ahead may we persevere in prayer for a just peace for Israelis, Palestinians and the whole region."
Today, the Vatican announced that its representative to the peace conference will be Under-Secretary for Relations with States Msgr. Pietro Parolin. Due to the short amount of time in which to select a representative and make travel arrangements, both the Vatican's Secretary of State and Under-Secretary were not able to attend, according to John L. Allen, Jr. Msgr. Parolin was appointed this afternoon to attend tomorrow's conference, and he left for Annapolis immediately.
Robert Moynihan named Msgr. Parolin as one of the Top Ten People of 2006 in Inside the Vatican's January 2007 issue, calling him "one of the Church’s most tireless and effective diplomats" in recent years. Familiar with the Middle East, Msgr. Parolin was present when the Pope met with Muslim leaders on September 26, 2006, and he has previously traveled to other countries on sensitive international diplomatic missions.