Calling for the protection of civilians in Gaza and the quest for a just peace, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations decried the fact that “In recent weeks, there has been an unprecedented escalation of violence in Israel and Palestine, resulting in deplorable levels of suffering.”
Archbishop Gabriele Caccia was addressing the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday, 6 November 2023 on the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
He reiterated that the Holy See denounces the terrorist attack on October 7th, orchestrated by Hamas and other armed groups, which killed 1,400 people. Apart from those who lost their lives, many others were wounded and taken hostage by the militants.
31 days of retaliatory attacks by the Israeli army on the Gaza Strip where Hamas has infrastructure have resulted in the brutal killing of more than 10,000 people.
Those killed include 4,104 children and there are many victims still trapped beneath the rubble. Exacerbating the humanitarian catastrophe, the Israeli siege is “drying up access to vital goods like fuel, food, and electricity,” said Gaza’s Ministry of Health and humanitarian operators.
Thus, renewing Pope Francis’ appeal, Archbishop Caccia solicited for the immediate release of those held hostage and called for a ceasefire.
As the Pope has clearly stated, the Apostolic Nuncio said, “terrorism and extremism fuel hatred, violence and revenge, and only cause mutual suffering.”
Humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip
Archbishop Caccia expressed sorrow at the terrible state of affairs in the Gaza Strip on humanitarian matters and decried the loss of innocent Palestinian lives as well as “the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, and the indiscriminate suffering of the population,” which has been deprived of basic needs.
Holy See calls for weapons to cease
“As in any conflict,” said the Vatican’s representative to the UN, “the Holy See calls for the absolute protection of each and every civilian.”
“It is imperative that hospitals and medical facilities, refugee camps, schools, as well as places of worship and their premises, are not targeted by anyone,” he added.
The Apostolic Nuncio reiterated the appeal made by Pope Francis.
“I beg you to stop: cease using weapons! I hope that avenues will be pursued so that an escalation of the conflict might be absolutely avoided so that the wounded can be rescued and help might get to the population of Gaza where the humanitarian situation is extremely serious. May the hostages be freed immediately.”
“Let everything possible be done to avoid a humanitarian disaster,” the Apostolic Nuncio continued “while keeping humanitarian corridors open to allow aid to reach the entire population and to heal the wounded.”
UNRWA a valuable resource in the dark hours
The Holy See urged the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to remain a valuable resource, during these difficult times.
According to the Nuncio, “UNRWA is proving to be crucial not only in promoting human development and providing humanitarian services to Palestinian refugees, including those settled in neighbouring countries but also as a source of much-needed hope that a peaceful future is possible and achievable.”
Therefore, the Holy See suggested that, for the foundation of peace, UNRWA should serve in the field of education.
Also, Archbishop Caccia said he believes that “in the face of growing despair, education can help to give to every young Palestinian refugee the opportunity ‘to shape his or her own future’ and to participate in the urgent task of fostering a culture of encounter and combating every form of terrorism.”
The Apostolic Nuncio said, “We pay tribute also to the high number of UNRWA personnel that have already lost their lives in the recent days.”
“We express our deep condolences to their families,” he added.
Calling on states to renew commitment to just peace
Archbishop Caccia stated that it is imperative that the authorities of both States of Palestine and Israel, with the international community, reaffirm their commitment to a just and mutually respectful peace.
“Although the path of dialogue seems very narrow at present,” said The Holy See’s representative to the UN, “it is the only viable option for a lasting end to the cycle of violence that has engulfed this land, so dear to Christians, Jews, and Muslims.”
Quoting Pope Francis, “I urge believers to take just one side in this conflict: that of peace,” the Apostolic Nuncio concluded.
By Sr. Titilayo Aduloju, SSMA | Vaticannews