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Pope’s Israel gesture

Jeusalem, May 26: Making history for the second day running, Pope Francis laid a wreath today on the grave of the founder of Zionism, becoming the first Pope to do so, a gesture of support to Israel after several symbolic signals the day before that lent a spiritual lift to Palestinian aspirations for sovereignty.

The visit was part of a marathon morning tour of Jerusalem in which Francis took off his shoes to enter the Dome of the Rock and later stood for several minutes with his right palm on the ancient stones of the Western Wall before placing a note between them.

At the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, he kissed the hands of six Holocaust survivors as he heard their specific stories, and, echoing a Jewish mantra, said: “Never again, Lord, never again!”

“A great evil has befallen us, such as never happened under the heavens,” Francis said, quoting the Bible in remarks part prayer and part poetry. “Grant us the grace to be ashamed of what we men have done.”

At the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Francis added to his itinerary a visit to a memorial to Israeli victims of terror attacks.

 
 
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