Pope Francis has invited the presidents of Israel and Palestine to the Vatican for prayers and talks early next month
The Pontiff prayed at the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock – two of the holiest sites in Judaism and Islam
He also visited a Holocaust memorial where he met several survivors of the Nazi regime and kissed their hands
This Article by Dareen Boyle was published in the MailOnLine
The Pontiff prayed at some of the holiest sites in Christianity, Islam and Judaism over the past three days and will hold a mass this evening at the location believed to have been where Jesus hosted his last supper.
Pope Francis, in accordance with Jewish tradition left a note in a crack in the Western Wall calling for peace and understanding between the three religions.
He bowed his head solemnly at the site, which is regarded as the one of the most sacred places in Judaism due to its proximity to the Temple Mount. He performed a similar gesture earlier in his trip at a controversial Israeli ‘peace wall’ in Manger Square, Bethlehem.
This morning, Pope Francis visited the Dome of the Rock which is the third most holy site in Islam.
In a mark of respect, Pope Francis removed his shoes before stepping into the gold-topped dome where Muslims believe the Prophet Mohammad ascended into heaven.
The mosque is known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount. The area is central to a territorial dispute between both religions.
Pope Francis addressed the grand mufti of Jerusalem and other Muslim dignitaries as ‘dear brothers’ during this morning’s address.
He said: ‘May we respect and love one another as brothers and sisters. May we learn to understand the suffering of others. May no one abuse the name of God through violence.’
Pope Francis also visited the Western Wall which is the holiest place in the Jewish world. He took time to pay homage to Jews murdered by the Nazis during World War Two.
The Pontiff has used his three day trip as a major diplomatic exercise having visited several of the most sensitive sites in the Muslim and Jewish world.
Pope Francis also prayed at the wall which dividing Bethlehem and Jerusalam which was seen as hugely symbolic.
Commenting after the talks, Prime Minister Netanyahu said: ‘I explained to the pope that constructing the fence (separation barrier) prevented many more victims of Palestinian terror, which continues today.’
In a later meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Pope Francis planted an olive tree – which is regarded as a sign of peace – in the garden of his official residence.
Pope Francis said: ‘You are known as a man of peace and a maker of peace, and I express my admiration and thankfulness for your attitude.’
In response, President Peres replied: ‘We would be honored to offer such a prayer either in our home or yours, in accordance with your kind offer.’
President Peres said the Papal visit would revitalise the stalled peace process between Israel and the Palestinians ‘based on two states living in peace, a Jewish state, Israel, and an Arab state, Palestine.’
Pope Francis also met with six Holocaust survivors, kissing each of them on the hand in an act of humility.
Writing in a memorial book, he commented: ‘Never again, Lord, never again! Here we are, Lord, shamed by what man – created in your own image and likeness – was capable of doing.
‘With shame for the fact that man made himself the owner of evil; with shame that man made himself into God and sacrificed his brothers. Never again!! Never again!! Francis. 5.26.2014.’
One of the survivors, Joeseph Gottdenker, 72, from Canada told the Pope of his experience: ‘The Catholic people who saved me and risked the lives of their whole families to save me, they are looking down today and proud to see me meet the leader of their faith.’