Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein met Sunday with Pope Francis in Rome and thanked him for strengthening ties between Catholics and Jews and for encouraging Christian pilgrimage to Israel.
“Your call for pilgrimages to the Land of Israel is extremely important,” Edelstein said. “It will certainly bring massive tourism that will contribute to Israel`s economy — for the benefit of Jews and Arabs alike – and this may lead to stability and calm.”
The pontiff had earlier visited Rome’s main synagogue and delivered a speech denouncing all religious violence and calling on Catholics to visit the Holy Land.
Edelstein, who is on an official visit to Italy, met with his counterpart, Chamber of Deputies President Laura Boldrini, and asked her to block a scheduled visit next week to the country by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, citing Iranian plans to hold an international Holocaust cartoon contest on January 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The two senior lawmakers met in Rome last Friday. Edelstein told Boldrini that ”a man who denies and mocks the Holocaust is not worthy of entering the gates of Europe.”
The two met on January 15 in Rome.
Last week Edelstein also appealed to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to denounce the 11th Tehran International Cartoon Biennial.
In a letter to Ban, Edelstein said that “words cannot describe the revulsion and protestation of the state of Israel and many across the world at the recurring proof that Iran continues in its policy of Holocaust denial.”
The Iranian president is to arrive in Italy on January 25-26, as part of his first trip to Europe since sanctions against his country were lifted over the weekend. During the visit, Rouhani is set to meet with the Italian president, the prime minister, the Pope, and business leaders. He will leave for Paris on January 27.
Rouhani had been scheduled to make the visits during November last year but delayed them after a string of terror attacks in Paris.