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(Courtesy L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis has told a reporter – just as a historic meeting between Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas looms – that to obtain peace in the Middle East, prayer is needed.

“Pray, pray, pray,” the pope told American television journalist and WABC Radio host Rita Cosby.

She was granted a rare audience with the pope at the Vatican in Rome this week, becoming one of the first American journalists to talk with him.

She asked about several topics, including his possible role as a peacemaker in the Middle East.

The White House, pressing for a “two-state solution,” believes “land for peace” will produce success and that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is a reliable peace partner. But Abbas has said he will never recognized Israel as a Jewish state, and his unity agreement with the terrorist group Hamas, which governs Gaza, is a deal-breaker for Israel.

On Sunday, Peres and Abbas are to meet with the pope at the Vatican.

The surprise invitation to both presidents for a prayer summit was extended during the pope’s recent visit to the Middle East. The visit included a stop at Bethlehem’s Manger Square.

Cosby said speaking with Pope Francis was “one of the greatest moments of my life.”

“He was extremely engaging and approaching. It is clear he cares deeply about peace in the Mideast and would like to do anything he can to assist this very difficult process.”

She has interviewed dozens of world leaders, including both Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II.

In the conversation, which was conducted in Spanish and Italian, the pope said peace is possible “with the Lord.”

“With the Lord, we must pray for peace,” he said. “Pray, pray, pray.”

Here’s the exchange:

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