Pope Francis appeals for peace in the Holy Land and says Israel has the right to defend itself, but affirms that violence cannot help achieve a lasting peace built on justice.

Source: Vatican News

Speaking at the Wednesday General Audience, 11 October, Pope Francis expressed his “sorrow and concern” for the war that has broken out between Israel and Hamas, an Islamist militant organisation operating in Palestine.

The Pope mourned the many people who have been killed and injured.

“I pray for those families who have seen a day of celebration turned into a day of mourning and ask for the immediate release of the hostages,” he said.

Militants from Hamas launched a surprise attack on the southern part of Israel on Saturday, as Jews marked the feast of Simchat Torah, or “joy of the Torah”.

Hamas took dozens of hostages during its incursion into Israel and has threatened to execute them if Israel attacks areas within the Gaza Strip.

Violence cannot lead to peace

In his appeal, Pope Francis acknowledged that “it is the right of those who are attacked to defend themselves.”

However, he expressed concern for the “total siege facing the Palestinians in Gaza, where there have also been many innocent victims.”

Israel announced a “complete siege” on Gaza, promising to shut off access to electricity, food, water, and gas.

The Pope invited both parties to restraint in hopes of reaching a solution to the war.

“Terrorism and extremism do not help to reach a solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, but fuel hatred, violence, and revenge, causing suffering to both sides,” he said.

Pope Francis concluded his appeal for peace in the Middle East with a call for fraternity and dialogue.

“The Middle East does not need war but peace, a peace built on justice, dialogue, and the courage of fraternity,” he said.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols - Pray for Peace

Main photograph courtesy of Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales