The Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai on Friday said the Lebanese state must not deal with its citizens who fled to Israel in 2000 as “criminals.”

During a visit to the Druze village of Isfiya near the northern Israeli city of Haifa, al-Rai said he was “profoundly hurt” by those who have criticized his historic visit to Israel and the Holy Land. “Can’t we perform our duties? Has compassion died? Have social duties died?” the patriarch asked.

On the last day of his visit to Israel on Friday, the Patriarch celebrated mass in the church of Saint Louis of Haifa, for the end of the Marian month of May, and conferred the title of Cor Bishop on Fr. Salim Estephan Soussan, a Maronite born in Kfar Bar’am before the exodus of 1948.

The city of Haifa is home to one third of the 10 thousand Maronites living in Israel. Several of them are wives and children of Lebanese who fought in the South Lebanon Army, which during the war in Lebanon, allied with Israel against the Palestinians and Hezbollah. In 2000,  they withdrew to Israel and are currently condemned to a life that is often stunted and without a future.

Al-Rai’s speech marked the end of a weeklong visit to the Holy Land. He spent the first two days in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, lands Israel occupied in the 1967 war, but on Monday ventured into Israel for the first time.