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Pope's visit to wall breaks new ground

It was a laying on of hands that spoke volumes to the world.

The leader of the Catholic Church paid his respects to a site held sacrosanct by Jews and Muslims alike as he became the first-ever pontiff to visit Israel.

Pope Francis prayed by the Western Wall in Jerusalem last Monday on a three-day trip to the Holy Land.

Francis followed tradition and left a written prayer inside the cracks of the wall – reportedly the text of the Lord's Prayer written in his native Spanish.

The Pope described the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as "unacceptable" and urged both sides to find courage in seeking a peaceful solution.

He also met the grand mufti – religious leaders – of Jerusalem and laid a wreath at the tomb of Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, and visited Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial, where he kissed the hands of six Holocaust survivors. The West Wall is also known as the Wailing Wall, or Ha'kotel in Hebrew.

Jews believe that it is the remains of the biblical Second Temple, which was built by Herod the Great in the first century BC.

Control of it has become a source of contention between Jewish people and Muslims, as both religions consider it a sacred site. It is a Jewish belief that the Holy Presence has never left the Western Wall and has become the most significant site of Jewish pilgrimage, where Jews came to mourn the ruin of the temple.

Throughout 2,000 years of exile, practicing Jews from all over the world have faced the direction of the Western Wall in their prayers.

However, Islam also considers the Western Wall to be a sacred part of its religion and history and believe that the wall and all its structures and gates are part of the al-Aqsa mosque.

Muslims believe that the prophet Mohammed was transported from the Sacred Mosque in Mecca to al-Aqsa during the Night Journey. The Western Wall is open 24 hours and requires a modest dress for women and headcover for men.

Belfast Telegraph


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