True to his developing reputation as an original and courageous leader, Pope Francis has led the Israeli and Palestinians in prayer together.
It is probable that no other individual on Earth right now could bring that off.
If ping-pong diplomacy could cut the ice in US-China relations in the 20th century, then maybe prayer can do the same in the 21st.
It certainly will not be the United States that brings Israel and Palestine together in any meaningful way, with great respect to John Kerry’s motivation and skills. The US as a country is far too tarnished in the Middle East and it should stop pretending otherwise.
It could be argued that the leading representative of ‘Christendom’ is also not the best individual to bring the two belligerent sides together. Christianity has its own deep historical baggage in the region, and the current illness that afflicts the Church, from Ireland to Australia, penetrates to the very roots of its institutional integrity.
But maybe that is half the point. We are all flawed. And the modern dispute is, after all, between adherents of Jewish and Muslim faith. Extremist adherents of all faiths – Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and indeed Hindu and Buddhist – will not compromise or perceive a common spirituality. But moderates of all faiths do.
And the global trend, led by the Pope though not confined to him, is towards a global recognition of a common human spirituality. So, it is just conceivable that high-profile demonstrations of this underlying unity of values might go some way to thawing the frozen conflict.