Israeli President Shimon Peres on Thursday welcomed the election of Pope Francis, saying he represented "holy modesty" and inviting him to visit the Holy Land.
"The newly-elected pope represents devotion, the love of God, the love of peace, a holy modesty and a new continent which is now awakening," Peres said a day after the election of Argentinian cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the first-ever pontiff from Latin America.
"We need, more than ever, a spiritual leadership and not just a political one," Peres said during talks with Polish Catholic clergy at his Jerusalem residence in remarks relayed by his office.
"Where political leaders may divide, spiritual leaders may unite -- unite around a vision, unite around values, unite around a faith that we can make the world a better place to live. May the Lord bless the new pope."
Peres also invited Francis "to pay a visit to the Holy Land at the earliest possibility."
"He'll be a welcome guest in the Holy Land, as a man of inspiration that can add to the attempt to bring peace in a stormy area," said Peres.
"All people here, without exception, without difference of religion or nationality will welcome the newly-elected pope."
The president said relations between the Vatican and Jewish people were "now at their best in the last 2,000 years, and I hope they will grow in content and depth."