JERUSALEM - Israeli leaders are welcoming the selection of Pope Francis and calling him a friend of the Jewish people.
President Shimon Peres invited the new pope to follow the lead of his two predecessors and visit Israel. In a meeting with Roman Catholic Church leaders in Poland Thursday, Peres called Francis "a man of inspiration that can add to the attempt to bring peace in a stormy area."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is sure the "excellent relations" between Jews and Christians as well as between Israel and the Vatican will continue.
Israel's chief rabbinate also welcomed the appointment, saying Pope Francis's "good relations with the Jewish People are well known."