Pope Francis would have performed much better had he adhered "strictly," "purely" and "absolutely" to making his trip a "pilgrimage for prayer" and one that is committed to Christian unity and to helping indigenous Christians survive the highly volatile and violent regional environment.
Instead he had drowned his spiritual role in a minefield of symbolic political semantics and semiotics.
The pope finished his "pilgrimage," which was announced as a religious one but turned instead into a political pilgrimage, with a call for peace.
However, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Hussein, while welcoming the pontiff inside Islam's third holiest site of Al-Aqsa Mosque on May 26, said: "Peace in this land will not happen until the end of the [Israeli military] occupation."
Palestinian-American Daoud Kuttab on May 25 wrote in a controversial column that the pope "exceeded expectations for Palestinians."
He flew directly from Jordan to Bethlehem in Palestine without passing through any Israeli entry procedures, implicitly and symbolically recognizing Palestinian sovereignty.
He addressed the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as the head of the "State of Palestine," announced that there must be "recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to a sovereign homeland and their right to live with dignity and with freedom of movement" and met with Palestinian children whose parents were refugees whom Israelis displaced from their homes in 1948.
And in an undeniable expression of solidarity with the Palestinians, he made an unplanned stop to pray at Israel's apartheid wall of segregation in Bethlehem, because, as he said, "the time has come to put an end to this situation which has become increasingly unacceptable."