The leader of the Maronite Church in Lebanon is set to accompany Pope Francis during his visit to Israel later this month, AFP reported on Friday.

Patriarch Beshara al-Rai was elected head of the Maronite Church in 2011.

“The pope is going to the Holy Land and Jerusalem,” Rai told AFP. “He is going to the diocese of the patriarch, so it’s normal that the patriarch should welcome him.”

Lebanese citizens are not permitted to visit Israel, nor are Israelis allowed to cross the border to the north. The only exception is Maronite clergy, who are permitted to travel as part of their function within the Church.

“It is a religious visit, and in no way a political one,” the patriarch said to AFP.

According to the report, Rai will not meet any political figures in Israel. He is, however, scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

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