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Pope Francis’ Israel Remarks Spark Fury

Pope Francis has triggered a backlash from Jewish groups who see his comments over the Israeli-Palestinian war as accusing both Hamas and Israel of “terrorism.”

The pontiff met Jewish families with relatives held hostage by Hamas, and Palestinians with families still in the Gaza Strip. He told an audience in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican City that he recognized suffering on both sides, saying: “This is what wars do. But here we have gone beyond wars. This is not war. This is terrorism.”

At a news conference on Wednesday, representatives of Palestinians who met with Francis quoted him as using the word “genocide” to describe the situation. But Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni denied this and said in a statement: “I am not aware that he used such a word.”

On Monday 20 November, U.S. officials addressed claims of a genocide committed by Israel. White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said: “Israel is not trying to wipe the Palestinian people off the map. Israel is not trying to wipe Gaza off the map. Israel is trying to defend itself against a genocidal terrorist threat.”

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) asked the Vatican to “clarify” what Pope Francis said.

In a statement on X, the AJC wrote it was “grateful” to Francis for meeting with hostage families but added: “Later in the day, he described the Israel-Hamas war as ‘beyond war,’ as ‘terrorism.’ Hamas’ butchering and kidnapping of civilians is terrorism. Israel’s self-defense is not. Vatican, please clarify.”

A statement from the Council of the Assembly of Italian Rabbis seemed to accuse Francis of “publicly accusing both sides of terrorism.”

It said unnamed “Church leaders” did not condemn the Hamas attack and said they were “putting the aggressor and the attacked on the same plane in the name of a supposed impartiality.”

U.S.-based Jewish human rights organization, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, wrote on its website: “It is important for one of the world’s primary faith leaders, for whom people of all faiths look to spiritual and moral guidance, not to forget that all those who came to speak and seek solace from him, all their suffering, all their loss, are on the hands of the Hamas terrorists who, on October 7th, inflicted in the most brutal way, the worst mass murder of Jews since the defeat of Nazi Germany and World War II.”

Newsweek has reached out to representatives of Pope Francis to offer a response to the comments.

Pope Francis speaks to a delegation on the Israeli-Palestinian war on November 22 in Vatican City. His comments led to Jewish groups accusing him of describing Israeli actions in Gaza as "terrorism". Vatican Media/Vatican Pool/Getty Images

Pope Francis speaks to a delegation on the Israeli-Palestinian war on November 22 in Vatican City. His comments led to Jewish groups accusing him of describing Israeli actions in Gaza as “terrorism”. Vatican Media/Vatican Pool/Getty Images© Vatican Media/Vatican Pool/Getty Images

A surprise attack from Hamas gunmen who crossed the border into Israel on October 7 killed 1,200 and led to around 240 people being taken hostage, according to Israeli figures.

Reuters figures quote tallies from health authorities in Hamas-ruled Gaza that claim more than 14,000 people have been killed there as a result of Israeli military action.

A four-day pause in fighting has been agreed to start today (November 24) in a deal that will see 50 Israeli hostages and 150 Palestinian prisoners released. Both sides say the pause is temporary.

By Jake Loader | newsweek

2023-11-24T16:54:30+00:00 November 24th, 2023|Categories: News|