Pope Francis continues efforts to bridge Middle East divide as he visits Israeli memorial day after praying at West Bank wall

Francis has invited presidents from the two sides of the ongoing conflict to the Vatican to pray for peace

Jerusalem

Pope Francis visited an Israeli memorial on Monday – a day after making an unscheduled stop at an Israeli-built barrier abhorred by Palestinians.

Francis’ three-day tour to the Middle East has been defined by his unexpected intervention in flailing diplomatic efforts to end the generations-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, inviting the presidents from the two sides to the Vatican to pray for peace.

Both Shimon Peres, who plays no decision-making role in Israeli diplomacy, and Mahmoud Abbas accepted the offer, but there was little hope that the unusual initiative could break decades of mutual mistrust and deadlock.

On Sunday the Pope had appeared to deliver a powerful boost of support to Palestinians when he disembarked from his popemobile to pray at the hulking concrete wall, daubed with anti-Israeli graffiti, which separates Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

 

Israel says its barrier in the occupied West Bank was erected to safeguard national security after a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings a decade ago. Palestinians see it as an attempt to grab land they seek for a future state.

But Francis demonstrated his desire to appease both sides in the conflict; his visit to Israel’s “Memorial to the Victims of Terror” on Monday came at the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu's office said in a statement that Francis was prompted by the prime minister to stop at the stone and marble structure, which is engraved with the names of Israeli civilians killed mainly in attacks by Palestinian militants.

The Pope was quoted by Israeli officials as saying: “Terror is absolutely evil. It comes from evil and causes evil.” He also laid a wreath at the grave of the Zionist leader Theodor Herzl, a move that was taken as signalling  a softening in the Vatican’s stance of past opposition to Jewish statehood.

Pope Francis started the last leg of his tour at the golden-topped Dome of the Rock, taking off his shoes before walking into the shrine from which Muslims believe the Prophet Mohammad climbed to heaven.

Afterwards, he went to pray at the adjacent Western Wall, one the Jews' most revered shrines and a sole remnant of their sacred Second Temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

The Pope then visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum which commemorates some six million Jews slaughtered during World War Two. Speaking minutes after landing in Israel on Sunday, Francis had called the Holocaust “an enduring symbol of the depths to which human evil can sink”, adding: “I beg God that there will never be another such crime.”

The Pope kissed the hands of six Holocaust survivors before his speech at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum.

Rather than broach the often-asked question of where was God during the genocide, the 77-year-old Pope asked: “Man, where are you? Who corrupted you, who distorted you, who convinced you that you were God? Not only did you torture and murder your brothers but you made them into a sacrifice for yourself.”

Religion plays a high profile role in Monday's packed timetable, with the Pope due to celebrate Mass in the Cenacle - a room just outside the walls of the Old City where Christians believe Jesus held the Last Supper with his disciples.

It is located on the second floor of an old stone building, above a cavern where some Jews believe King David is buried.

Speculation that Israeli officials were set to hand the Cenacle over to the Church has sparked protests by Jewish nationalists. Police arrested 26 people at a rowdy demonstration early on Sunday ahead of the pope's visit.

Israel denies it plans to relinquish control of the site.

Some 8,000 police are on hand to guarantee the Pope's security following recent vandalism of church property blamed on Jewish extremists. Roads will be closed and shopkeepers in parts of the Old City have complained of being forced to shutter their stores all day to keep the stone streets empty.

Additional reporting by Reuters

Read more: Pope tries to bridge Middle East divide
The reason why the Pop has Twitter and not Facebook
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football Polish side was ejected from Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Junior Analyst - Graduate - 6 Month fixed term contract

£17000 - £20000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

SAS Business Analyst - Credit Risk - Retail Banking

£450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Business Analyst, London, Banking, Credit Ris...

Project Manager - Pensions

£32000 - £38000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone