Pope Francis met separately on Wednesday with relatives of Israeli hostages in the Gaza Strip and relatives of Palestinian terrorists imprisoned in Israel and implored peace and an end to terrorism and “passions that kill everyone.”
The pope spoke about the suffering of Israelis and Palestinians after his meetings, held before the hostage deal between Israel and Hamas and the announcement of a temporary halt to fighting.
He made no reference to the agreement, which marked the biggest diplomatic breakthrough since the outbreak of war following the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist massacres in southern Israel.
The Israeli cabinet approved the agreement aimed at obtaining the release by Hamas of around fifty Israeli hostages kidnapped and taken to Gaza by terrorists on October 7. A first group of 12 to 13 hostages could be released as early as Thursday.
During the meeting, Rachel Goldberg, whose son Hersh Goldberg-Polin had his arm blown off and then taken hostage by Hamas terrorists at the Supernova desert rave, showed the pope footage of the attack.
“This is my son,” Goldberg said, handing his cell phone to the pope. “No arms, it’s been 47 days.”
The pontiff said he met at the Vatican with relatives of some of the more than 240 hostages held in Gaza, and separately with a delegation of Palestinians whose relatives are imprisoned in Israel for terrorist offenses.
In the VIP seats in St. Peter’s Square were people holding Palestinian flags and scarves as well as small posters showing apparent bodies in a ditch and the word “Genocide” written underneath.
“Here we have gone beyond the war. It’s no longer war, it’s terrorism,” Francis said. “Please, let’s move forward in peace. Pray for peace, pray a lot for peace.
He also asked God to help Israelis and Palestinians “solve problems and not move forward with passions that end up killing everyone.”
The pope has repeatedly spoken out to call for an end to the war and has tried to maintain the Vatican’s typical diplomatic neutrality in conflicts. The Vatican is particularly concerned about the fate of Christians in Gaza.
Earlier this month, Francis told European rabbis visiting the Vatican that his first thoughts and prayers are “above all, on everything that has happened in recent weeks,” in reference to the brutal attack of Hamas against Israel on October 7 and the war that followed. with Hamas.
The war broke out after some 3,000 Hamas terrorists crossed the Israeli border from Gaza by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and taking more than 240 hostages under the cover of a barrage of thousands of rockets fired on Israeli cities. The vast majority of those killed when gunmen overran border communities were civilians, including children and the elderly. Entire families were executed in their homes and more than 360 people were massacred at an open-air festival, many amid horrific acts of brutality by the terrorists.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.