Former Israeli President Shimon Peres has held talks with Pope Francis to illustrate his idea for a U.N.-style “Organisation of United Religions” to combat violence in God’s name.
Peres, 91, who was president of the Jewish state until July and is one of the Middle East’s most prominent elder statesmen, spoke to the pope for about 45 minutes on Thursday in his residence, the Vatican said.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Francis, who visited the Middle East in May, did not make “any decision or personal commitment” after listening to Peres’ proposal.
The former Israeli leader outlined his idea for a new world body in an interview with the Italian Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana, hours ahead of his meeting with the pope.
“In the past, the majority of wars were motivated by the idea of nationhood. Today, instead, wars are sparked above all with the excuse of religion,” Peres said.
“Now, given the fact that the United Nations has had its day, what is needed is an Organisation of United Religions, a U.N. of religions. It would be the best way to combat these terrorists who kill in the name of faith because the majority of people are not like them …,” he said.
Islamic State, which has declared an Islamic Caliphate in areas it controls in Syria and Iraq, has driven tens of thousands of Christians and members of the Yazidi religious minority from their homes. They have killed two American journalists.
“People who shoot the most these days, nearly always say they are doing it in God’s name,” Peres said. What is needed is an unquestionable moral authority that says in a strong voice ‘No, God does not want this and does not permit it’,”.
Peres, who gave no details on how the organisation of world religions would be formed or its representatives chosen, also said in the interview he believed Pope Francis should head it because “he is perhaps the only leader who is truly respected”.
Briefing reporters on the meeting between Peres and the Pope, Lombardi noted, however, that the Vatican has departments that deal with issues of peace and inter-religious dialogue.
Last June Francis hosted a service in the Vatican where Peres, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders prayed for peace in the Middle East.