The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, on his first official visit to Israel since his installation this year, said he hoped to “serve all the people of this region, without exception” during his tenure.
At a reception in his honour at St George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem last night, he emphasised the importance of Jerusalem remaining an open city with access to religious sites holy to the three Abrahamic faiths.
The archbishop, who prayed at the Western Wall yesterday, will visit the Al-Haram Al-Sharif on the Temple Mount and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
“Jerusalem is, as we know, the centre of the world in so many ways,” he said. “The centre of three great faiths, the centre of much of the news that we hear; the centre in both good ways and bad ways.
“It is essential that Jerusalem remains an open city, with full access to the religious sites which are holy to three faiths. And it is essential that round the world we support those who bear the burden of ensuring the openness of those holy sites.”
He said that “finding ways of living together after the great traumas, tragedies, of so many years is a huge challenge. And it will come when there is a change of heart.”
He said that when people were left out, there will be "no security, no justice, no peace".
Anglican bishop of Jerusalam Suheil Dawani said hosting the event marked his commitment “to peace and reconciliation between the three official religions and two peoples of the Holy Land.”
The archbishop met Israeli President Shimon Peres on Thursday. He told Mr Peres that it was always "a great privilege to always come to this land" .
The archbishop said that the Israeli government ha d a responsibility to ensure people of all faiths are welcome in the country , adding that: "We want to introduce a brotherly sentiment."
Earlier the archbishop visited Yad Vashem Holocaust Musem in Jerusalem and was presented with a Page of Testimony from the museum's archives. He appeared deeply moved , telling reporters: "This is not a place for words, it’s a place for tears and a place for learning and remembering, and I think the fewer words the better."