Did Pope Francis take sides when he visited the contentious heart of the Middle East a few days ago?

You might think so if you saw the one photograph from the trip that went viral. It showed the pope standing at the barrier that separates the West Bank from the rest of Israel, with his head bent against the concrete in prayer. The graffiti framing the pontiff as photographers snapped pictures shouted anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian slogans.

To Palestinians it was a sign that Francis is on their side. They reportedly plan to issue a stamp commemorating the moment.

The pope did not speak, but he appeared to be siding with those who say the wall must go. As it happens, nobody is crazy about the structure. Israelis, irritated with what looked like a propaganda victory for the other side, mused about what the pope might have been praying about. Perhaps, they commented, he was praying for an end to the terrorist attacks that made the wall necessary.

Pope Francis naturally understood the symbolism of his much-photographed stop. But he would say more, much of it without words.

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