Catholic News Service
Pope Francis and Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch walk towards the Western Wall in Jerusalem May 26.
Catholic News Service
Pope Francis and Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch walk towards the Western Wall in Jerusalem May 26.
The ultimate success of Pope Francis’ historic visit to the Holy Land will be gauged on what happens next in this much fought-over part of the world.

If anyone left on the planet can nudge the belligerents to seek peace, it is this extraordinary, holy man.

During his visit, the pope invited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres to join him at the Vatican to pray together for peace.

Of course, Benjamin Netanyahu is the power broker on the Israeli side; Peres is stepping down in a month from his largely ceremonial post, and Netanyahu is an uncompromising hard-liner when it comes to negotiations with the other side.

Still, images of the two old warriors, Abbas and Peres, Muslim and Jew, praying alongside the pope at the Vatican could be a tipping point in long-stalled peace negotiations.

Remember the photos of the handshake between Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir with U.S President Bill Clinton standing between them?

Not many people ever thought that would ever occur, but it did and the sides have worked to tamp down  the violence.

The existential problem in the Holy Land is that two groups of people have legitimate claims to the same piece of real estate and neither side trusts the other. Both have lots of legitimate reasons for this stance.

Our Pope Francis trusts the power of prayer, though. This pre-eminent voice for peace in the Middle East and elsewhere understands better than most that God works in mysterious ways.

Middle East experts have said for years that if the Israeli-Palestinian  issue can be resolved, peacefully, then peace can break out everywhere. That seems like a worthy issue on which to pray.