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regular-article-logo Saturday, 25 May 2024

Pope Francis meets separately with Israeli relatives of hostages held by Hamas and Palestinians with family in Gaza

Speaking in unscripted remarks at his general audience in St Peter’s Square, Francis said he heard directly how 'both sides are suffering'

Reuters, AP/PTI Vatican City Published 23.11.23, 10:53 AM
Pope Francis meets Israeli relatives of hostages kidnapped by Hamas at the Vatican on Wednesday

Pope Francis meets Israeli relatives of hostages kidnapped by Hamas at the Vatican on Wednesday Vatican Media/­Handout via Reuters

Pope Francis on Wednesday met separately with Israeli relatives of hostages held by Hamas and Palestinians with family in Gaza and said the conflict had gone beyond war to become “terrorism”.

Speaking in unscripted remarks at his general audience in St Peter’s Square shortly after the meetings in his residence, Francis said he heard directly how “both sides are suffering” in the conflict.

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“This is what wars do. But here we have gone beyond wars. This is not war. This is terrorism,” he said. He asked for prayers so that both sides would “not go ahead with passions, which, in the end, kill everyone”. A group of Palestinians in the audience held up pictures of bodies wrapped in white cloth and a placard saying “the Nakba continues”.

Nakba is the Arab word for catastrophe and refers to the displacement and dispossession of Palestinians in the 1948 war that surrounded Israel’s founding.

The meetings and the pope’s comments came hours after Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire in Gaza for at least four days to allow in aid and release at least 50 hostages captured by militants in exchange for at least 150 Palestinians jailed in Israel.

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