Pope Francis’ poignant words pleading for peace and the end of violence in the Holy Land resonated strongly in St. Peter’s Square during the Angelus prayer on Sunday, 22 October.
“Deplorable” levels of suffering for civilians
Those words were echoed in New York this week in a statement the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the UN addressed to the Security Council on the crisis amid the relentless retaliatory bombing and blockade of the Gaza Strip, concrete risks of the conflict extending and international tensions ramping up.
He highlighted the distressing escalation of the violence, “resulting in deplorable levels of suffering” for civilians, and recalled again that “war is always a defeat” for humanity because “it hinders the human family’s innate vocation to fraternity.”
Call for release of hostages
Archbishop Gabriele Caccia then focused his intervention on three points.
First, he conveyed the Holy See’s “absolute and unequivocal condemnation” of the terrorist attack carried out by Hamas and other armed groups on 7 October against the people of Israel.
“As Pope Francis clearly stated, terrorism and extremism fuel hatred, violence and revenge, and only cause mutual suffering”, he said, emphasizing that “these crimes demonstrate utter contempt for human life and are unjustifiable.”
Archbishop Caccia therefore relaunched the call for the immediate release of all the 222 Israeli hostages held in Gaza, which Pope Francis reiterated on Wednesday during his General Audience.
So far, Hamas has only set free four captives, including an American citizen and her daughter and two elderly women, with the Emirate of Qatar (which has relations with Hamas while maintaining security ties with the United States), playing a major diplomatic role in the negotiations for the liberation of the hostages.
Criminal responsibility for terrorism can never be attributed to an entire people
The second point highlighted by the Apostolic Nuncio was that criminal responsibility for terrorist acts “can never be attributed to an entire nation or people”.
“The right to self-defence in every conflict must always comply with international humanitarian law, including the principle of proportionality,” he stressed.
Concern for human catastrophe in Gaza
Finally, Archbishop Caccia expressed the Holy See’s “grave concern for the unfolding humanitarian disaster in Gaza, which has claimed thousands of lives and has displaced hundreds of thousands of people.”
The “total siege” imposed by Israel on the Strip “has caused indiscriminate suffering among the population”, including many children, due to shortages of food, water, fuel and medical supplies.
He, therefore, called for the “facilitation and the continuation of humanitarian corridors”, so that aid can reach all the Gazan population.
Need for ‘audacity’ to renew commitment to just peace
The Apostolic Nuncio concluded his intervention by appealing to both the State of Israel and the State of Palestine “to demonstrate audacity to renew their commitment toward a peace based on justice and respect for the legitimate aspirations of both sides”.
In this regard, he reaffirmed that the “Holy See remains convinced that the two-State solution still offers hope for such a peace.”
By Lisa Zengarini | Vatican news