Pope Francis called for the end of military operations in Gaza and the release of Israelis being held hostage in the area in his annual Christmas message.
The pope in remarks at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican in front of thousands of people gathered to pray said that the world should work toward the coming of the day when “nation shall not lift up sword against nation.” He called for it to come to Israel and Palestine, where the war has been “devastating the lives of those peoples.”
“My heart grieves for the victims of the abominable attack of 7 October last, and I reiterate my urgent appeal for the liberation of those still being held hostage,” Francis said.
“I plead for an end to the military operations with their appalling harvest of innocent civilian victims and call for a solution to the desperate humanitarian situation by an opening to the provision of humanitarian aid. May there be an end to the fueling of violence and hatred,” he continued.
The pope initially called for a cease-fire in the region in late October, a few weeks after the war began.
The pope met with families of Israeli hostages in Gaza and Palestinians living in the area amid the war last month, talking about the hardship that both Israelis and Palestinians have been facing. He met with a dozen relatives of the roughly 240 hostages held by Hamas and about 10 Palestinians whose relatives had been killed or impacted by the war in Gaza.
Hamas, which has been recognized as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union and several other countries, kidnapped hundreds from Israel during its attack on the country on Oct. 7. A temporary cease-fire was negotiated late last month to have about 50 hostages be released in exchange for a pause in the fighting, additional humanitarian aid being sent into Gaza and the release of 150 Palestinian prisoners.
Israel has faced criticism throughout the war for its operations widely attacking the Gaza Strip which has led to rising casualties. More than 20,000 people in Gaza have been killed since the war began, according to Palestinian health officials.
Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas.
Francis said the questions surrounding the status of Palestine should be resolved through “sincere and persevering dialogue” between the parties with the support of the international community.
He also called for peace in other countries affected by war like Syria, Yemen and Ukraine.
Francis also called for political authorities and persons of “goodwill” in the Americas to find ways to solve political and social conflicts, fight poverty, reduce inequality and address migration movements.
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