22 November 2023

Pope meets relatives of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners

22 November 2023

Pope Francis has held separate meetings at the Vatican with relatives of Israeli hostages in Gaza and Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

The Pope begged for peace and an end to what he called terrorism and “the passions that are killing everyone”.

Francis spoke about the suffering of both Israelis and Palestinians after his meetings, which were arranged before the Israeli-Hamas hostage deal and a temporary halt in fighting was announced.

The Pope did not refer to the deal, which marked the biggest diplomatic breakthrough since the war erupted following Hamas’ October 7 raid into southern Israel.

Francis said he met relatives of some of the more than 200 hostages held in Gaza, and separately with a delegation of Palestinians with relatives who are prisoners in Israel.

In the VIP seats of St Peter’s Square were people holding Palestinian flags and scarves as well as small posters showing apparent bodies in a ditch and the word “Genocide” written underneath.

Francis said: “Here we’ve gone beyond war. This isn’t war anymore, this is terrorism.

“Please, let us go ahead with peace. Pray for peace, pray a lot for peace.”

He also asked for God to help both Israeli and Palestinian people “resolve problems and not go ahead with passions that are killing everyone in the end”.

Francis has repeatedly called for an end to the war while trying to maintain the Vatican’s typical diplomatic neutrality in conflicts.

The Vatican is particularly concerned about the plight of Christians in Gaza.

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