Cardinal becomes first Lebanese religious leader since 1967 to visit Jerusalem, defies critics

The leader of Lebanon's largest Christian sect has come to Jerusalem despite fierce criticism in Lebanon, which remains at war with Israel.

Cardinal Bechara Rai, head of the Maronite Catholic Church, is the first Lebanese religious leader to set foot in Jerusalem since Israel captured the traditionally Arab eastern sector in 1967.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, confirmed the cardinal had come to Jerusalem as part of a group of senior clergy accompanying Pope Francis on a Holy Land pilgrimage.

Earlier, Rai told the official Palestinian news agency WAFA that he supports demands for a Palestinian state and came to pray for peace.

Lebanon bans its citizens from visiting Israel or having business dealings with Israelis. The Lebanese media have called the visit a "historic sin."