During his visit to Bethlehem on Sunday, Pope Francis stopped briefly at the security barrier, much to the satisfaction of his Palestinian hosts.
The Palestinians see the Pope's stop at the security barrier as a symbolic act intended to relay his opposition to the presence of the barrier.
Responding to the Jerusalem Municipality's approval of the construction of 50 housing units in Har Homa, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said the decision was an "immoral, illogical and uncivilized" Israeli response to the Pope's visit to the "illegal" security fence.
Abu Rudaineh said that Har Homa was a settlement that had been built on lands belonging to Bethlehem families.
The Palestinian daily Al-Quds said that Pope Francis' "surprise" visit to the security barrier was a "demonstration led by the pontiff, on behalf of all the free Muslims and Christians, against all what the wall represents: assault on freedoms, theft of rights, confiscation of lands, uprooting of trees and killings of people."
Another Palestinian newspaper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, praised the Pope for stopping and praying at the security fence "with a bleeding heart." Commenting on the photo of the Pope touching the barrier, the paper said: "Look at his fine hand which appears as if it wants to destroy the wall. We are confident that the despicable racist wall will be demolished by hands like the fine hand of Pope Francis. Israel must read the Pope's message and come to terms with the stupidity of this wall."
Palestinian columnist Talal Okal said that Pope Francis learned during his visit to Bethlehem about the "intolerable suffering of the Palestinians as a result of the occupation and its policies."
Okal said that the Pope's visit to the security barrier provided him with an opportunity to see for himself the "suffering of tens of thousands of Palestinians because of the racist separation wall that violates the principles of openness and tolerance, as well as international law. We don't think that the occupation is happy with this visit [to the barrier] because it is a huge achievement for Palestine and the rights of the Palestinians."
Another Palestinian columnist, Ghassan Zuqtan, wrote in the Ramallah-based newspaper Al-Ayyam that the Pope's stop at the security fence was a stop against the "culture of the occupation and its racist policies."