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Pope and crowd at Vatican join in unscripted silent prayer for stop to Mideast warfare

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis has led tens of thousands of people in St. Peter's Square in unannounced, silent prayer for an end to the warfare in the Mideast.

Francis called for insistent prayers for peace in the Holy Land during his Sunday window appearance to pilgrims and tourists.

He said he didn't consider "in vain" the June 8 peace prayer gathering he hosted at the Vatican attended by the Israeli and Palestinian presidents. Francis, who made a Mideast pilgrimage in May, urged people to avoid concluding that "violence and hatred win out over dialogue and reconciliation."

Last week, Israel widened its air assault on the Gaza Strip's Hamas rulers, and militant rockets have targeted Israel. Francis lamented the recent "tragic events."

International diplomacy is aiming to stop the warfare.

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