“This is not war; this is terrorism.” With those words, Pope Francis described the Israel-Hamas war that is ravaging the Holy Land.
Addressing the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday General Audience, the Pope turned his thoughts to those suffering in Palestine and Israel.
In his appeal, he prayed for everyone suffering due to various wars, especially in Ukraine, Israel, and Palestine.
The Holy Father recalled his meeting earlier the same morning, on 22 November, with two delegations: one of Israelis who have relatives held hostage in Gaza, and another of families of Palestinians who are suffering in Gaza.
The Pope met first with the 12 members of the Israeli delegation at his residence in the Casa Santa Marta at 7:30 AM. He then met with the Palestinian delegation at around 8:00 AM in a room in the Paul VI Hall. The Palestinian delegation was composed of 10 people with relatives in Gaza, and included Christians and Muslims. They were accompanied by Fr. Gabriel Romanelli, the parish priest of the Catholic Church of the Holy Family in Gaza, and a Greek Orthodox priest.
In both encounters, Pope Francis expressed his anguish and his closeness to their pain.
“They suffer so much. I heard how they both suffer,” said the Pope afterwards at the General Audience, adding that “wars do that”.
“But here we have gone beyond wars”, the Pope stressed. “This is not war; this is terrorism.”
Dialogue instead of passions
The Pope invited everyone to “pray for peace; pray always for peace.”
The Holy Father then prayed that the Lord may “help us to solve the problems and not be driven by the passions that wind up killing everyone.”
“Let us pray for the Palestinian people; let us pray for the Israeli people, so that peace may come,” the Pope concluded.
The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, announced on Friday that Pope Francis would be meeting with the delegations, stressing that the meetings would be “of an exclusively humanitarian nature” aiming to demonstrate Pope Francis’ “spiritual closeness to the suffering of each individual”.