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Full text: Netanyahu welcomes pope to Israel

May 25, 2014 8:19 P.M. (Updated: May 27, 2014 2:43 P.M.)
The following is a translation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks at a news conference welcoming Pope Francis to Israel on Sunday evening.

Your Holiness, Pope Francis,

Welcome to our land, the Land of Israel, the Holy Land. You bring with you the spirit of reconciliation, faith, and peace of millions of Christians worldwide, and also of many who are not Christian yet who are caught up in the spirit of love for humanity which you embody. Your visit is an important chapter in the history of the relations between Christians and Jews, a bond which has lasted for 2,000 years.

These relations are anchored in the Bible, which is the moral, historic, and religious keystone on which Judaism rests, and from which Christianity grew. The Bible articulates man's relationship with his fellow man, the relationship of man with God and it articulates our people's prayer for the redemption of its homeland and man's prayer for the day "nation shall not lift sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore."

It is against the backdrop of the suffering of the past that I welcome the good relations between the Holy See and the Jewish people and Jewish state that have been built during our generation. We admire and appreciate your decision to lay a wreath on the grave of Benjamin Zeev Herzl, the founder of the Zionist movement. We know that when you light the eternal flame at Yad Vashem in memory of the one-third of our people who were murdered in the Holocaust, it will be another expression of your belief that antisemitism is a crime against God and against humanity, as was the heinous anti-Semitic crime perpetrated yesterday on European soil.

Your Holiness, despite all the incitement and disturbances and pogroms against our people, we regained our independence in our ancestral homeland, to be a free people in our land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem. Your visit here is an opportunity to show you the real Israel, a democratic, advanced, prosperous country.

Your Holiness, in the heart of the Middle East, the turbulent and violent Middle East, where Christians are often persecuted, Israel is an island of tolerance. We safeguard the rights of all faiths. We guarantee freedom of worship for all and we are committed to maintaining the status quo at the Holy sites of Christians, Muslims, and Jews.

Your Holiness, Pope Francis, you are leaving here for Jerusalem, our eternal capital, the heart of our faith. In Jerusalem and around our country, the prophets' vision of our people's renaissance is being fulfilled. This renaissance is one of the greatest symbols of humanity. It is not just the story of the Jewish people, but also the triumph of the human spirit which does not surrender to the horrors of history and succeeds, despite all obstacles, to rise up to the heights of progress, creativity and hope for peace.

Your Holiness, Pope Francis, welcome to Israel. You are welcome to the State of Israel.
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