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Cardinal is first top Lebanese cleric in Israel

The head of Lebanon's largest Christian denomination has visited a parish in Israel, becoming the first Lebanese religious leader to come to the Jewish state since its creation in 1948.

 

Cardinal Bechara Rai, a Maronite Catholic, made the trip despite criticism at home. His critics say the pilgrimage implies normalization with Israel at a time when the two countries remain formally at war.

 

Rai said Monday that his journey is celebrating the roots of Christianity in the region. In a veiled response to his critics, he says he was misunderstood and that his journey is purely spiritual.

 

He was cheered by several dozen faithful as he arrived at a Maronite parish in Jaffa, today part of Israel's second largest city, Tel Aviv. He also visited a monastery west of Jerusalem. (AP)