Pope Francis injected himself into the stalled Mid-East peace process with a series of dramatic gestures, reports ABC radio.
Francis called for an end to the 'increasingly unacceptable' Palestinian-Israeli conflict during a visit to the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
On the second leg of a three-day visit to the Middle East, Francis referred directly to the 'state of Palestine,' giving support for its bid for full statehood recognition in the face of a paralysed peace process.
However, the Pope made clear that a negotiated accord was needed, calling on leaders from both sides to show the necessary courage to forge a deal.
Francis flew by helicopter to Bethlehem, becoming the first Pontiff to travel directly to the West Bank rather than enter via Israel.
He later travelled to Israel, where some 8,000 police were deployed in Jerusalem to guarantee his security.
The Pope's decision not to use a bullet-proof car meant Israeli security officials have cleared the roads and created numerous 'sterile areas' ahead of his 24-hour stay in the city.
Standing alongside Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, Francis pointedly referred to him as 'a man of peace and a peacemaker' before heading to Bethlehem's Manger Square, close to where Christians believe Jesus was born, to celebrate an open-air mass.
A mural behind the altar showed Jesus, who was a Jew, swaddled in a Palestinian keffiyeh, with his father, Joseph, also wearing the black and white headdress, made famous by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
At the end of the mass, Francis invited Israeli president Shimon Peres and Mr Abbas to his home in the Vatican for a 'heartfelt prayer' for peace.
'I offer my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer,' he said.
To read more and listen to this ABC Radio report: Pope Francis in Bethlehem urges an end to the Middle East conflict (ABC News)