.- Archbishop André Vingt-Trois of Paris is leading more than 600 French pilgrims, including clergymen, theologians, pilgrimage tour operators and journalists, on a visit to the Holy Land. They arrived in Israel on Monday.
The high-profile visit comes almost 10 years after Vingt-Trois’ predecessor, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, who was himself a convert from Judaism, established more cordial relations between the Catholic Church in France and Israel.
The French delegation visited Yad Vashem Holocaust museum on Wednesday. The archbishop placed an orange and green wreath at a large stone memorial for the six million Jews who were killed by the Nazis.
During meetings at the museum, the archbishop reportedly spoke about the importance of remaining hopeful while remembering the tragedy.
"Without hope, the remembrance of crime is the despair of man," Archbishop Vingt-Trois reportedly said. "Keeping the memory with hope, this is faith."
According to a report in the Jerusalem Post, Archbishop Vingt-Trois carried out the traditional ceremony of salt, wine, and bread upon landing at Ben-Gurion International Airport.
"We are happy to be in the Holy Land. Jerusalem is the center of religions and it must unite all the religions in line with the vision of Jesus for unity, peace and tolerance," he said.
His visit is meant to send a message of peace to Israel and the Palestinians, as well as encourage a rise in the number of Catholic pilgrims visiting the Holy Land.
The archbishop is also expected to sign a special treaty at Yad Vashem, committing the Catholic Church to joint research on the victims of the Holocaust. He is also expected to declare a visit to Yad Vashem as an important priority for Catholic pilgrims to the Holy Land, according to the Israeli paper
On Monday night the Archbishop took part in a dialogue on ethics and security in the 21st century, organized by Tel Aviv University. Later this week, his delegation will visit Nazareth and other holy sites in the Galilee.