Published 22/11/2023 13:17 | Edited 11/22/2023 20:05
Pope Francis, in a separate meeting with families of Israeli hostages and Palestinians with relatives in Gaza, declared that the conflict between Israel and Palestine has gone beyond the limits of war to become “terrorism”. During his general audience in St. Peter’s Square, the leader of the Catholic Church emphasized the suffering on both sides and appealed for prayers and peace.
The religious leader met separately with Israeli relatives of hostages and Palestinian relatives in Gaza. After these meetings, Francisco stated that he heard directly how “both sides are suffering”. He denounced the conflict, stating: “This is not war. This is terrorism.”
During the audience in St. Peter’s Square, where people held Palestinian flags and scarves, the pope asked for prayers so that “both sides do not advance with passions, which, in the end, kill everyone.” Francis also called for a prayer for peace, highlighting the importance of not forgetting the victims of conflicts around the world, including in “tortured Ukraine.”
Discomfort in Israel
It is not new that the Vatican’s statements cause discomfort in Israel. On October 13, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolim, called for proportionality on the part of the Jewish country, which punishes thousands of Palestinian civilians for the Hamas insurgency in southern Israel with 1,200 deaths. The Vatican also offered to mediate the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen criticized the Vatican’s position at the time, calling for a clear condemnation of the institution’s “deadly terrorism” against Israelis. Ultra-right sectors of the government demanded a diplomatic break with the Vatican. However, Francis’ new speech does not sound like a blunt condemnation of Hamas, but like an equalization of violence against civilian populations, on both sides.
Earlier this month, he reiterated his call for an end to hostilities and called for more humanitarian aid for Gaza. His statements caused discomfort in sectors of the Israeli government, even as the Vatican sought to maintain its typical diplomatic neutrality.
Israel’s ambassador to the Vatican, Raphael Schutz, did not directly refer to the pope’s words, but highlighted the distinction between the parties, stating that one side is engaged in a “war of self-defense,” while the other seeks to “murder, rape and He doesn’t care about those on his own side.”
Truce in progress
The pope’s statements come after the recent truce agreement between Israel and the armed group in Gaza, which aims to allow humanitarian aid and the release of hostages. The religious leader did not explicitly mention this agreement, which marks a significant step forward since the start of the war.
Pope Francis continues to play an active role in promoting peace in the Israel-Palestine conflict, maintaining a clear and condemnatory stance against what he calls “terrorism.” His words reflect the Vatican’s concern about the humanitarian situation, especially for Christians in Gaza.