The leader of Lebanon’s Maronite community, the country’s largest Christian denomination, visited the Latrun Monastery Monday, becoming the first Lebanese religious leader to come to Israel since its creation in 1948, the DPA agency reported.

Cardinal Bechara Rai made the trip, joining Pope Francis on parts of the pontiff’s three-day Holy Land pilgrimage, against opposition in Lebanon where Hezbollah claimed that the visit would legitimize Israel.

Rai said Monday that his journey is celebrating the roots of Christianity in the region and was purely spiritual, DPA reported.

He was cheered by members of the Maronite community as he arrived at a parish later in Jaffa.

Rai is expected to also visit Christian communities in Nazareth, Acre and Haifa before returning to Lebanon via Jordan on Saturday.

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