Ahead of the Christmas holiday, President Shimon Peres visited the Catholic community in Ramle on Sunday, where he met with local leaders and dignitaries from various Christian denominations.

Peres was greeted at the Franciscan Catholic Church by a group of schoolchildren in Santa Claus outfits, who sang Christmas songs in English, Arabic and Hebrew. The president then addressed the assembled crowd and noted that Ramle was a center where all three Abrahamic religions lived together.

“I came to offer my blessings on behalf of the State of Israel, where Jews, Christians and Muslims live together,” Peres said in his speech. Any religious holiday is “a holiday for the whole country,” the president said, and the State of Israel is responsible for the “safety, freedom and holy sites” of all its “free and equal citizens.”

“The Lord is doing what He can, but we must do what we need to do to follow His wish and our destiny, to live in peace,” Peres said.

Also in attendance were Ramle Mayor Yoel Lavi, along with representatives of the Franciscan Catholic, Anglican and Greek Orthodox communities.

The ceremony ended with a traditional toast and eating of chocolates.