• pope francis
    (Photo: Reuters/Mheisen Amareen)
    Pope Francis touches the wall that divides Israel from the West Bank, on his way to celebrate a mass in Manger Square next to the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem May 25, 2014. Pope Francis made a surprise stop at the hulking wall Palestinians see as a symbol of Israeli oppression on Sunday, minutes after begging both sides to end a conflict that he said was no longer acceptable.
  • pope francis
    (Photo: Reuters/Andrew Medichini/Pool)
    Pope Francis touches the stones of the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, in Jerusalem's Old City May 26, 2014. Francis completes a tour of the Holy Land on Monday, paying homage to Jews killed in the Nazi Holocaust and looking to affirm Christian rights at a disputed place of worship in Jerusalem.
By Katherine Weber, Christian Post Reporter
May 27, 2014|7:13 am

Pope Francis wrapped up his visit to the Middle East by making final stops in Bethlehem and Israel on Sunday and Monday, paying a special surprise visit to the Wall of Bethlehem that separates Israel from the West Bank and offering quick prayer while at the wall.

Francis reportedly stopped at the wall for four minutes, leaning his head in to touch the stone on the wall next to a graffiti message that read "Free Palestine." He also placed his hand on the wall to pray during the unexpected stop.

The wall, also known as the Israeli West Bank barrier, was built by Israel to separate itself from the West Bank and the Palestinian population. Father Federico Lombardi, a spokesperson for the Vatican, told The Guardian that even members of Francis' own entourage were unaware that the Pope would make his stop at the separation wall.

"I was not informed [of his plans to stop]. It was planned by him the day before […] It was a very significant way to demonstrate his participation in suffering […] It was a profound spiritual moment in front of a symbol of division."

While en route to Manger Square in Bethlehem to deliver mass, Francis' open-sided Pope Mobile pulled off at the wall near Rachel's Tomb, and the Catholic leader wove his way through photographers and Palestinian children to offer his quick prayer at the wall.

Along with his symbolic stop at the Wall of Bethlehem, Francis also invited Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli president Shimon Peres to meet at the Vatican next month to offer a "heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace." The Associated Press reports that the two leaders have reportedly agreed to the meeting, and will participate in the prayer at the Vatican.

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The pope began his three-day visit to the Middle East by arriving in Jordan, where he spoke on the Syrian crisis and the ongoing Israel-Palestinian conflict, calling for a "peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis and a just solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict."

Francis then headed to Bethlehem on Sunday, eventually wrapping up his tour Monday in Jerusalem by making another surprise visit, at Israel's request, to the Victims of Acts of Terror Memorial and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, where he met with Holocaust survivors. In reference to the Holocaust, Francis reportedly said aloud: "Never again, Lord. Never again."