The leader of the Catholic Church has plunged headlong into the contentious world of Middle East politics during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Pope Francis has invited the Israeli and Palestinian presidents to visit him at the Vatican to pray for peace. He issued the surprise invitation after landing in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.

The Pope said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had become “unacceptable”. He made direct reference to the "state of Palestine", giving support for their bid for full statehood recognition. He also stopped to pray at the controversial Israeli Separation Wall which surrounds the occupied territory.

The Vatican said the primary purpose of the visit was religious.

But what is Pope Francis hoping to achieve from his trip? And has it taken on a political dimension?

Presenter Mike Hanna


Yehuda Hakohen - a Rabbi and peace activist.

Massimo Franco - a political columnist for Corriere della Sera, and author of the book 'Once There Was A Vatican'.

Wadie Abu Nassar - media adviser to the Catholic church in Jerusalem.

Source: Al Jazeera