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Palestinians who fled their houses due to Israeli airstrikes gathered Oct. 23 to receive food offered by volunteers at a U.N.-run school where they have taken taken refuge in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip.
Palestinians who fled their houses due to Israeli airstrikes gathered Oct. 23 to receive food offered by volunteers at a U.N.-run school where they have taken taken refuge in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip.
Photo Credit: Mahmoud al-Masri | Reuters

Pope appeals for unimpeded aid into Gaza, release of all hostages

Pope Francis and U.S. President Joe Biden spoke on phone Oct. 22 about the need to find avenues toward peace

Pope Francis again called for the release of hostages taken from Israel by Hamas militants and for allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza.

“I am always thinking about the serious situation in Palestine and Israel,” the pope said during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square Oct. 25.

“I encourage the release of hostages and the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza,” he said, and “I continue to pray for those who suffer, to hope for avenues toward peace in the Middle East and martyred Ukraine and in other regions wounded by war.”

More than 200 people were believed to be held by Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in Gaza after their attacks on Israel Oct. 7. While some aid was coming in from Egypt, Israel has imposed a full blockade on Gaza.

The pope spoke the morning after Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the Vatican’s permanent observer at the United Nations, told the Security Council that although dialogue seems impossible right now, it is the “only viable option for a lasting end to the cycle of violence” that has plagued the Holy Land.

“Amidst the escalating violence, it is imperative for the authorities of 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,” said the archbishop.

“The Holy See remains convinced that the two-state solution still offers hope for such a peace,” he said during a Security Council open debate Oct. 24 on “the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.”

“In the most absolute terms and unequivocally,” the archbishop said, the Holy See condemns “the terrorist attack carried out by Hamas and other armed groups” against Israel.

“Thousands were barbarically killed and wounded. Others were taken hostage,” he said. “These crimes demonstrate utter contempt for human life and are unjustifiable,” he said, repeating the pope’s call for the release of hostages.

The “distressing escalation of violence,” the archbishop said, has caused “deplorable levels of suffering” in a land that is “so dear to Christians, Jews and Muslims.”

At the same time, Archbishop Caccia said that “the criminal responsibility for terrorist acts is always personal and can never be attributed to an entire nation or people,” for example, by blaming all Palestinians or even all the people of Gaza for the actions of Hamas and allied groups.

Israel’s right to self-defense, like the right of every nation attacked, “must always comply with international humanitarian law, including the principle of proportionality,” he said.

The Vatican is seriously concerned about the “unfolding humanitarian disaster in Gaza, which has claimed thousands of lives and has displaced hundreds of thousands of people,” he said. Israel’s “total siege” of the territory is causing “indiscriminate suffering among the population, including due to shortages of food, fuel and medical supplies.”

Mahmoud al-Masri | Reuters Debris surrounded St. Porphyrios Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza Oct. 20 after an explosion went off the night before. Several hundred people had been sheltering at the church complex, many of them sleeping, at the time of the explosion. The Hamas Ministry of Interior in Gaza blamed the explosion on an Israeli airstrike but responsibility for it had not yet been independently verified.
An explosion at the St. Porphyrios Greek Orthodox Church campus in Gaza has left the administration building in ruins, and at least 17 people dead, though numbers have not yet been officially confirmed.

Several hundred people had been sheltering at the church complex, many of them sleeping, when the explosion went off the night of Oct. 19. The Hamas Ministry of Interior in Gaza blamed the explosion on an Israeli airstrike but responsibility for the explosion has not yet been independently verified.

On his Facebook page, Latin Patriarchate CEO Sami El-Yousef wrote Oct. 20 that at the time of his writing 10 people had been reported dead and 20 missing, with many more injured. “Our prayers are with our people in Gaza,” he wrote. “Please God end this madness now!”

Israeli Defense Forces said in an Oct. 20 statement that on Oct. 19 “IDF fighter jets targeted the command and control center belonging to a Hamas terrorist, involved in the launching of rockets and mortars toward Israel. The command and control center was used to carry out attacks against Israel, and contained infrastructure belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization.” IDF said that as a result of the IDF strike, “a wall of a church in the area of the center was damaged,” that they were “aware of reports of casualties,” reviewed the incident and that the IDF “can unequivocally state that the Church was not the target of the strike.”

In an earlier release, the Israeli Air Force said that since Hamas’ initial attack on Israel Oct. 7, Hamas has “continuously used civilians in the Gaza Strip as human shields, regularly launched barrages of rockets and used civilian compounds for military purposes.”

“These rocket launches are carried out from areas adjacent to civilian buildings and compounds such as hospitals, U.N. schools, mosques, restaurants, diplomatic buildings, and hotels,” the release said.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate statement said it remained committed, along with the other churches, to “fulfilling its religious and moral duty in providing assistance, support and refuge to those in need.” It said it would not heed Israel’s warnings to leave the area as Israel continues to carry out airstrikes against Hamas targets.

Eleven Catholic religious have chosen to stay in Gaza to be with the Christians in Holy Family Latin Parish in Gaza City. The religious include two priests from the Incarnate Word congregation, three Incarnate Word sisters from Argentina and Peru, three Missionaries of Charity sisters from India, Rwanda and the Philippines who care for severely disabled children, and three Rosary Sisters from Egypt and Jordan.

Pope, Biden speak on phone

On Oct. 22, the pope spoke with U.S. President Joe Biden in a 20-minute phone call to discuss “situations of conflict in the world” and the need to find avenues toward peace, the Vatican said.

In their conversation, Biden “condemned the barbarous attack by Hamas against Israeli civilians and affirmed the need to protect civilians in Gaza,” the White House said in a statement released Oct. 22. The president “discussed his recent visit to Israel and his efforts to ensure delivery of food, medicine and other humanitarian assistance to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”

The White House said the two leaders also discussed “the need to prevent escalation in the region and to work toward a durable peace in the Middle East.”

President Biden traveled to Israel Oct. 18 and had been scheduled to meet with Arab leaders in Amman, Jordan, but the second leg of his trip was cancelled.

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Pope appeals for unimpeded aid into Gaza release of all hostages 9107

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