President Shimon Peres welcomed Pope Francis to Israel at Ben-Gurion airport on Sunday, saying that Israel's 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."
The president touted Israel's respect for freedom of religion, vowing not to "allow anyone to violate this commitment."
Peres praised Pope Francis, saying "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."
The president said that Pope Francis has his personal gratitude, as well as that of the Israeli 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."