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President Shimon Peres welcomes Pope Francis to Israel

May 25, 2014
State Welcome Reception for Pope Francis
May 25, 2014
On behalf of the Jewish people and in the name of all the people of Israel, I welcome you with the age old words from the Book of Psalms: “Welcome in the name of the Lord.”
Welcome at the gates of Jerusalem.
Your Holiness,
You have arrived in the State of Israel where today members of different religions and nationalities live together – Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druse and Circassians.
Israel is a Jewish and democratic state where coexistence in peace is implemented, and a state that aspires for peace with all its neighbors. Even if peace calls for sacrifices, the sacrifices of peace are preferable to the threat of war. Our hand is stretched out in peace and will continue to be stretched out in peace, and we shall seek the right path to achieve it.
Israel is a state in which there is no religious coercion or anti-religious outlooks, and where the right to freedom of religion is respected. We are responsible for its implementation, and we shall not allow anyone to violate this commitment.
We take pride in this pluralistic nature of our society, which respects all its citizens, regardless of religion and nationality.
You bring with you great tidings and hope for all. You carry a message of brotherhood among peoples, and friendship for all. Nothing enriches more than love of humanity. Indeed, our Sages taught us that only love will build Jerusalem. You bring inspiration. A call to choose values over assets, generosity over envy, goodwill over power.
Your Holiness,
You have brought to the Holy See a noble and natural humility. Deep identification with the poor, the oppressed and destitute. A profound sense that the task of man is to mend the world – Tikkun Olam – and engage in scientific activities for which the sanctity of life are their supreme value.
These values were voiced by the Prophets Isaiah and Amos in Jerusalem, and who represented a beacon to Jesus, the Nazarene, and to Saint Francis of Assisi, whose name and spirit you embraced, as Pope and Head of the Catholic Church.
Your Holiness,
We are grateful to you for assuming your sensitive and resolute stand against all expressions of anti-Semitism. Against all manifestations of racism.
Only yesterday, criminals shot innocent people in the Jewish Museum in Brussels only because they thought they were Jewish. This is a manifestation that poisons wells and cannot be accepted.
You assumed the position of builder of bridges between all religions. Among the diverse cultures. The creation of new relations, free of the residues of the past, between Judaism and Christianity. We are attentive to your words and respect their content. The people of Israel are thrilled by your arrival and are in anticipation of your remarks.
And see in you a modest and far-sighted shepherd. The Jewish people are an ancient people, that rejected idolatry and denied goddesses, and swore to believe in one God, our Father in Heaven. And although our people knew destruction and exile, suffering and violence, a horrific Shoah and wars of survival, they did not deviate from their path.
Even when their condition degenerated, their spirit never failed. They safeguarded the legacy of their forefathers and the revival of the Jewish people emanated from the birth of their descendants. With the help of their faith and scientific advances, they turned a meager and parched land into green fields and blooming gardens.
Whatever knowledge we acquired, we were happy to put it at the disposal of other peoples who so desired, and we are willing to share our expertise with our neighbors, close and afar, so as to jointly fight hunger and poverty, hopelessness and violence. It is necessary for us all to pool our resources to save the poor from their destitution and provide the young with opportunities to reach the peaks of success.
And we shall all pray for peace in the world and justice in our society. In the words of Isaiah: “Is it not to share your food with the hungry and the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah, 58:7)
And to this I shall add: “And you will know no more wars.” And may the Ten Commandments, written 3500 years ago, continue to serve as a guiding light also for our future.
Please accept my gratitude, and that of my people, for your warm and loving attitude to the Jewish people, which I have always observed, and which the Church you head called “my older brothers.” Your Holiness, our brother you are.
Welcome to the Eternal City, the city of justice and peace. May they yield their fruit soon. Salve in Terra Sancta.
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