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Israeli President Shimon Peres hails Pope Francis as 'rock' against religious terrorism

Monday, 26 May 2014 - 5:33pm IST | Agency: PTI

Lauding Pope Francis' remarks distancing religion from terror, Israeli President Shimon Peres today called the pontiff a "rock" against any attempt to connect the two together and hoped that his historic visit will help rejuvenate the stalled Middle East peace process.

"I believe that your visit and call for peace will echo through the region and contribute to revitalising the efforts to complete the peace process between us and the Palestinians, based on two states living in peace," Peres said.

Crediting the Pope's visit to Israel with the power to bring peoples of different religions together, the Israeli elder statesman in an address delivered at his official residence said the papal trip could help rejuvenate the deadlocked Middle East peace process.

Describing Francis as "a rock against any attempt to connect religion to terror," Peres added that "In the face of moral corruption we must show moral responsibility. And make clear that there is no greater contradiction than that between faith and murder.

The Pope in turn described Peres as "a man of peace" commending his efforts in the peace process.

He also spoke out against anti-Semitism "in all its forms" and hoped for an end to all conflicts in the Middle East.

Earlier during the day, speaking at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, Pope Francis compared the Holocaust to idolatry and expressed shame in "what man, created in (God's) own image and likeness, was capable of doing".

His remarks came during his brief visit to the site, where he laid a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance and greeted six Holocaust survivors.

Yad Vashem chairman, Avner Shalev, presented the Pope with a reproduction of a painting of a hasid engrossed in prayer that was painted by a teenaged victim of the Holocaust in the Lodz ghetto.

Speaking in the presence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Peres and former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, himself a survivor, the Pope further beseeched God to "grant us the grace to be ashamed of what we men have done".

The Nazi genocide was a "massive idolatry" that must never happen again, he emphasised.

"The Father knew the risk of freedom, he knew that his children could be lost, yet perhaps not even the Father could imagine so great a fall, so profound an abyss," he mourned.

The pontiff today started the third and last day of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, at the Al-Aqsa mosque complex on the Temple Mount, where he met with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and urged Muslims, Christians and Jews to "work together for justice and peace."

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