Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Monday welcomed visitors to Jerusalem ahead of Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming visit to the region. "On behalf of the residents of Jerusalem, it is my distinct honor to welcome His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, and the thousands of pilgrims from around the world that will be visiting Jerusalem," the mayor said in a statement. "Jerusalem is the heart and soul of the Jewish people and a special city to more than three billion people of faith around the world. The rich history of Jerusalem continues to bring together great religions and their leaders from many cultures and faiths," he added. Barkat went on to specifically welcome the pope, as well as "each and every pilgrim with a message of perseverance for peace."