In what is being characterized as an unprecedented gesture, Pope Francis stopped to pray at a wall that separates Israel from the West Bank in the city of Bethlehem on Sunday.
According to The Guardian, Francis prayed for four minutes during the unscheduled stop.
He put one hand on the wall and leaned over it, in a spot next to red graffiti that read, “Free Palestine.” Silently, Francis also touched the wall with his forehead.
As we reported earlier, Francis has already made history on this three-day trip to the Middle East, giving symbolic approval to Palestinian hopes for an independent state by landing directly in Bethlehem on Sunday.
The previous three popes to visit the Holy Land went to the West Bank after first arriving at Tel Aviv, Israel.
After the dramatic stop at the wall, Francis then made another unprecedented call.
“In this, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, I wish to invite you, President Mahmoud Abbas, together with President Shimon Peres, to join me in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace,” he said. “I offer my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer.”
According to the AP, the two men accepted and will go to the Vatican next month.
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Eyder Peralta and L. Carol Ritchie