Pope to meet relatives of Hamas hostages and Palestinians in Gaza

Pope Francis holds a consistory in St. Peter's Square at The Vatican where he will create 21 new cardinals, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)
Pope Francis holds a consistory in St. Peter's Square at The Vatican where he will create 21 new cardinals, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

Pope Francis will meet next week a group of relatives of Israelis held hostage by Hamas and another of relatives of Palestinians in Gaza, the Vatican says.

The 86-year-old pontiff wants to demonstrate his “spiritual closeness” during the two meetings, which will take place on the margins of his weekly audience at the Vatican, spokesman Matteo Bruni says in a statement.

“On the morning of Wednesday, November 22, on the sidelines of the general audience, Pope Francis will meet at separate times with a group of relatives of Israelis held hostage in Gaza and a group of relatives of Palestinians suffering from the conflict in Gaza,” he says.

“With these meetings of exclusively humanitarian nature, Pope Francis wants to demonstrate his spiritual closeness to the suffering of each one.”

Bruni cited the pontiff’s comments last Sunday that “Every human being, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, of any people or religion, every human being is sacred, is precious in the eyes of God and has the right to live in peace.”

The Hamas terrorist group took about 240 people hostage when it attacked Israel on October 7, breaking through Gaza’s border to kill about 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

In response, Israel embarked on a massive air and ground campaign with the aim of toppling the terror group’s regime in Gaza, which it has ruled since taking over in a 2007 coup.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry claims that 11,500 people had been killed in Gaza since the start of the war, including at least 4,710 children and 3,160 women. The figures cannot be independently verified and do not distinguish between civilians and terrorists, and also do not differentiate between those killed by Israeli airstrikes or by failed Palestinian rocket launches.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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