Pope Francis calls for return of hostages; Vatican offers to mediate

October 17, 2023

3 min read

During his Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City on Sunday, PopeFrancis said humanitarian law must be respected, “especially in Gaza where it is urgent and necessary to ensure humanitarian corridors and to come to the aid of the entire population.”

“I continue to follow with much sorrow what is happening in Israel and Palestine [Gaza],” the Pope said. “I think back to the many people, especially the little ones and the elderly.”

“Brothers and sisters, many have already died,” he said. “Please, let no more innocent blood be shed, neither in the Holy Land nor in Ukraine, nor in any other place! Enough! Wars are always a defeat, always!”

It should be noted that this statement came before the IDF began its ground incursion. This was also when Egypt had closed the Rafah Crossing to refugees, both Palestinians and foreign nationals, as well as preventing humanitarian aid from entering Gaza.

At the same time, the pope called for Hamas to release the hostages being held in Gaza as human shields.

“I renew my appeal for the freeing of the hostages and I strongly ask that children, the sick, the elderly, women, and all civilians not be made victims of the conflict,” Pope Francis said.

This is a repetition of a statement he made on Wednesday during a weekly audience.

“I continue to follow what is happening in Israel and Palestine with tears and apprehension: many people killed, others injured,” he said. “I pray for those families who have seen a feast day transformed into a day of mourning, and I ask that the hostages be released immediately.”

 “it is the right of those who are attacked to defend themselves”, he added.

 Israel says at least 199 people taken during the Hamas attack are being held captive in Gaza.

At the same time, Pope Francis preemptively admonished Israel against a strong military effort to remove Hamas from Gaza.

“It is the right of those who are attacked to defend themselves,” Pope Francis said. “But I am very concerned about the total siege under which the Palestinians are living in Gaza, where there have also been many innocent victims.”

It should be noted that in 2015, Pope Francis received Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and referred to the head of the PLO as “an angel of peace”. This came after the Vatican recognized a Palestinian state.

The anti-Hamas message was repeated by Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, in an interview with Vatican News on Friday:

“The terrorist attack carried out by Hamas and other militias last Saturday against thousands of Israelis who were about to celebrate the day of Simchat Torah, concluding the week of the Sukkot festival, is inhuman,” Parolin said.   

Parolin also demanded that Israel’s military response not harm any Gazans.

“It is just that in Israel’s legitimate defense, the lives of Palestinian civilians living in Gaza should not be endangered. It is just – indeed, essential – that in this conflict, as in any other, humanitarian law be fully respected,” he said.

He suggested that the Vatican could play a role in securing the release of the hostages.

“The release of Israeli hostages and the protection of innocent lives in Gaza are at the heart of the problem created by Hamas’s attack and the response of the Israeli army,” Parolin said. “They are at the center of all of our concerns: the Pope and the entire international community.”

“The Holy See is ready for any necessary mediation, as always,” he said, saying they are seeking to engage with institutions “whose channels are already open.”

Parolin added that a mediated release of the release of the hostages might require compromises by Israel regarding the rights of Jews to live in Judea and Samaria and Israel sovereignty over Jerusalem.

“It seems to me that the greatest possible justice in the Holy Land is the two-state solution,” he said.

A two-state solution would create an unprecedented Arab state inside Israel’s borders, ethnically cleansed of Jews, with its exclusively Muslim capital in Jerusalem.

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