In what is largely seen as a gesture of goodwill that echoes the globetrotting adventures of John Paul II, Pope Francis visited Israel for the first time and was warmly welcomed by the Israeli government and populace. The pontiff’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land was also marked by an unprecedented move, when he arranged a meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian presidents, set for next month at the Vatican, as a measure to continue talks on creating peace between the two conflicting nations. In response, both parties willingly accepted the pope’s invitation, strengthening Francis’s image as an influential global leader pushing for world peace.
Pope Francis stopped by Bethlehem in Palestine, largely considered the birthplace of Christianity, before heading to Israel, where he safely arrived on May 25, Sunday, and was warmly welcomed by the country’s government officials while being flanked by an honor guard.
But it was the pope’s pit stop in Palestine where Francis expressed words of sympathy and support to the Palestinians. The pope notably visited a refugee camp in Bethlehem, hosting a private lunch with several Palestinian families who disclosed that they were unjustly harmed by Israeli policies.
One of the strongest images from Pope Francis’s visit to Palestine was when the pontiff came to the infamous barrier that separates Palestine from Israel (pictured above). The pope placed his hand on the graffiti-covered wall and gave a short prayer before departing to his next destination in his scheduled itinerary. Additional highlights to the pope’s visit in the Holy Land included a stopover at Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher—a sacred place widely believed by many Christians as the place where Jesus Christ was crucified, interred, and raised from the dead.
Overall, Pope Francis’s pilgrimage to Israel and Palestine was intended to not only pay spiritual respects to the birthplace of Christianity, but to also highlight an ongoing conflict between two opposing countries in dire need of a peaceful resolution.