JERUSALEM - Pope Francis visited Israel's "Memorial to the Victims of Terror" at the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, a day after unexpectedly praying at the security barrier seen by many Palestinians as a symbol of Israeli injustice.
"Terror is total evil, it is caused by evil and it's result is evil. Never again. Never again," the pontiff said at the memorial engraved with the names of Israeli victims of Palestinian attacks, according to a statement from the prime minister's office.
"The prime minister told the pope the stories of the victims of terror, and showed him the panel with the names of the victims of the terror attack in Buenos Aires," Netanyahu's office said in a separate statement, referring to a July 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in the capital of Argentina, the pope's homeland, that killed 85 people.
On the third day of his trip to the Holy Land, the pope also visited Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, praying in front of a crypt with the ashes of victims. He visited with Holocaust survivors and listened to stories of loved ones killed by the Nazis in World War II.
"Here we are, Lord, shamed by what man — created in your own image and likeness, was capable of doing," he said.
A day earlier, the pope made an unscheduled stop to pray at the Israeli separation barrier surrounding parts of Bethlehem.
Israel maintains that the wall in the occupied West Bank was meant to protect Israelis from Palestinian attacks. Palestinians see it as a land grab that imperils their future state.
Pope Francis also invited the Israeli and Palestinian presidents to the Vatican, calling the stalemate in peace talks “unacceptable” as he visited the birthplace of Jesus.
The pontiff delighted many Palestinians when he referred to the "state of Palestine" -- a nod of support to their bid for full statehood recognition.
Reuters contributed to this report.
- Paul Goldman and F. Brinley Bruton
First published May 26 2014, 2:32 AM