Pope meets privately with families of Israeli hostages held in Gaza

Relatives show photos of captives during Vatican audience with pontiff, who reportedly calls Hamas ‘evil,’ is ‘very clear’ hostages need to return home

Pope Francis during a meeting with relatives of Israeli hostages the Bibas family (Shiri, Yarden, Ariel, Kfir), Omri Miran, Agam Berger, Guy Gilboa Dalal and Tamir Nimrodi, held in the Gaza Strip by Palestinian terrorists, seen at the Vatican City, April 8, 2024. (VATICAN MEDIA / AFP)
Pope Francis during a meeting with relatives of Israeli hostages the Bibas family (Shiri, Yarden, Ariel, Kfir), Omri Miran, Agam Berger, Guy Gilboa Dalal and Tamir Nimrodi, held in the Gaza Strip by Palestinian terrorists, seen at the Vatican City, April 8, 2024. (VATICAN MEDIA / AFP)

Pope Francis on Monday met relatives of several Israelis taken hostage by Hamas during the Palestinian terror group’s devastating October 7 attack on Israel.

Members of five Israeli families had a private audience with Francis on Monday, showing him posters of loved ones who were taken, including Ariel and Kfir Bibas, aged 4 and 1, respectively. Their mother, Shira Bibas, was also abducted.

There were also relatives of hostages Tamir Nimrodi, 19, Guy Gilboa-Dalal, 22, Agam Berger, 19, and Omri Miran, 46, at the meeting.

The Vatican released photos of the encounter, showing the relatives of several of the hostages sitting in a semicircle in front of Francis in his private library in the Apostolic Palace. Each one held a poster with a photo and the name of their loved one.

Berger’s cousin Ashley Waxman said afterward that the meeting had been “very emotional” and “very powerful.”

The pope “called Hamas evil, which they are… And, he was very clear that the hostages need to come home,” she told a press conference.

Meirav Gilboa-Dalal, left, shows a photo of her son Guy, one of the hostages being held by Hamas, as she is flanked by Guy’s brother Gal, during a press conference in Rome, Italy, April 8, 2024. (Alessandra Tarantino/AP)

Gilboa-Dalal’s mother, Meirav, said that, since he was taken hostage at a music festival on October 7, “for me, there is no day and no night.”

“My heart is broken. I can barely breathe. And I am paralyzed with fear. Where is my Guy? Where? When will my Guy come home?”

The 87-year-old pontiff had previously met a group of relatives of hostages at the Vatican in November, the same day as meeting Palestinians who have family in Gaza.

On October 7, Hamas led a massive cross-border attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians. The thousands of terrorists who burst through the border also abducted 253 people as hostages to the Strip.

Israel responded with a military campaign to topple the Hamas regime in Gaza, destroy the terror group, and free the hostages of whom 130 remain in captivity, some of them no longer alive.

Pope Francis touches a photograph of child hostages Ariel and Kfir Bibas as he meets with Ashley Waxman Bakshi, right, and other relatives of Israeli hostages being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, at the Vatican, April 8, 2024. (Vatican Media via AP)

Speaking after his weekly Sunday prayer at the Vatican, the pope repeated his call for peace.

“Let us always pray for peace, a just, lasting peace, in particular for martyred Ukraine and for Palestine and Israel,” he said.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 33,000 people in the Strip have been killed in the fighting, a figure that cannot be independently verified and includes some 13,000 Hamas terrorists Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 gunmen inside Israel on October 7.

Israel has lost 260 soldiers in its ground offensive in Gaza.

The hostages’ families were in Italy as part of a delegation that included Israel’s foreign minister, Israel Katz.

Relatives of Israeli hostages being held by Hamas, from left, Bezalel Schneider, Dani Miran, Naama Miran, Ashley Waxman Bakshi, Li-Yam Berger, Amit Nimrodi, Alon Nimrodi Meirav Gilboa-Dalal, and Gal Gilboa-Dalal, pose with photos of the kidnapped before a press conference in Rome, Italy, April 8, 2024. (Alessandra Tarantino/ AP)

Katz met his Italian counterpart, Antonio Tajani, on Sunday, the six-month anniversary of the Hamas attack in southern Israel. In a statement, Katz thanked the pope for agreeing to meet with the families “in order to strengthen them and to support bringing the hostages home.”

He was also to meet with Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the secretary for Relations with States, to discuss the importance of increasing pressure on Hamas to release the hostages in Gaza.

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