Tourism Minister Uzi Landau on Wednesday described Pope Francis as a global moral authority and warmly praised him, ahead of the pontiff’s visit to the region later this month.

Landau was speaking to The Jerusalem Post regarding the upcoming papal visit in an interview to be published in full on Friday.

Speaking in his office at the Tourism Ministry in Jerusalem, Landau commented on Francis’s humanistic approach to his office in the year since he was elected.

“Pope Francis is a high moral authority with a unique attitude to his mission,” said the minister. “He projects a combination of modesty, friendship and authority, and his face shines with friendship and love of the people he meets.”

Landau said that the pope’s visit would be highly significant for the state because of his status as head of the Catholic Church and its 1.1 billion followers.

He lauded Israel as the historical birthplace and cradle of Christianity, as well as Judaism, and touted the country’s diverse ethnic makeup and Israel’s respect for freedom of worship.

The minister did, however, criticize the recent spate of vandalism attacks, including those perpetrated against Christian holy sites, saying that the phenomenon was reprehensible and that the Israeli security services needed to deal with it urgently.

“This is a poisonous and ugly seed that has grown in our backyard,” Landau said. “I don’t care what people outside of Israel are writing, it is first of all our problem.... It is a problem morally and for the rule of law, and the security services need to uproot it as quickly as possible, for our own good.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger