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Pope Makes Impromptu Visit to Terror Victims' Memorial

After 'propaganda stunt' at security barrier, pope makes unplanned stop at official memorial for Israeli victims of terror at PM's request.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 5/26/2014, 10:40 AM

Pope Francis in Jerusalem
Pope Francis in Jerusalem
Flash 90

Pope Francis made an unscheduled visit to a monument in memory of terror victims while visiting the Har Herzl national cemetery in Jerusalem. The visit followed a stop at the Temple Mount and Western Wall, and ahead of a tour of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum.

While at the cemetery, the pope placed a wreath on the grave of Zionist leader Theodor Herzl, in a symbolic gesture meant to apologize for Pope Pius the Tenth's refusal to help establish a modern Jewish state in Israel in 1904.

After placing the wreath, the pope changed his schedule to honor Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's request to visit the monument, which features black marble plaques in memory of the terror victims.

Pope Francis then moved on to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, where he denounced the "abyss" of the Nazi genocide.

Speaking at a solemn ceremony at the Hall of Remembrance after meeting survivors, he spoke of "the boundless tragedy of the Holocaust" describing it as an "unfathomable abyss."

The unscheduled stop at Netanyahu's request comes following an unscheduled stop initiated by Pope Francis on Sunday at the security barrier separating Bethlehem and Jerusalem, which was built to prevent terror attacks.

At the security barrier the pope stopped his Pope-mobile to pray with his head on the wall, right by a section of the wall with "free Palestine" spray-painted on it.

An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman responded to the incident, accusing the Palestinian Authority (PA) of turning the pope's visit into a "propaganda stunt."

"That’s what they do and the Vatican plays along with it, and so be it. We will find the time to speak with the Vatican through diplomatic channels about this,” the unnamed diplomat added.

The pope raised controversy on Sunday when he referred to the PA as the "state of Palestine."