Pope, appearing hale, points to friendship of grieving Israeli, Palestinian fathers

Appearing healthier than he has recently, Pope Francis highlights grieving Palestinian and Israeli fathers during his weekly general audience.

The Vatican press office says the pontiff met with Bassam Aramin and Rami Elhanan in private before the general audience and then warmly greeted the two men at the end.

Both of them had lost their daughters over the course of the Middle East conflict, “and they are both friends,” Francis says.

“They do not look at the enmity of war,” he adds. “They look to the friendship of two men who care about each other and have experienced the same crucifixion.”

Aramin’s daughter Abir was killed in 2007 by a rubber bullet fired by an Israeli Border Police officer as she left school; Elhanan’s daughter Smadar was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber in Jerusalem in 1997.

The two men’s story of friendship was told in the novel “Apeirogon” by Colum McCann, a winner of the Terzani Prize who met with Francis during an audience with artists on June 23.

“Let us think of the beautiful witness of these two people who have suffered the war in the Holy Land in the loss of their daughters,” the pope says.

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