Search operations after the Israeli airstrike on Gaza. Credits: ANSA.
From the Apostolic Palace window, praying the Ángelus on the thirtieth Sunday in ordinary time, Pope Francis called to end the Israel-Hamas war that escalated in early October.
Among the 20,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square and millions of followers on social media, the Vicar of Christ focused on the situation in the Gaza Strip, where the situation worsens every day that goes by, and he calls for a ceasefire and to allow humanitarian aid for the devastated Palestinians, including the release of hostages.
“In particular, in Gaza, leave space to guarantee humanitarian aid and let the hostages be freed immediately,” the Pope said. “Let no one abandon the possibility to stop the arms. Ceasefire.”
According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, Mehdat Abbas, more than 8,000 people have lost their lives, including 3,300 minors and 2,000 innocent women, but some of them are very difficult to identify. “We had a uniquely hard time because the bodies were so dismembered, body parts were everywhere.”
On the other hand, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believed that Israel had killed thousands of militants in the current Hamas-Israel war, but he failed to provide evidence or precise numbers to support his claims.
The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, joined the Pontiff’s claims to appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza after intense attacks by Israeli forces that left healthcare facilities without electricity and left civilians in a devastated and isolated situation.
“I reiterate my strong appeal for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire,” Guterres said. “Together with the unconditional release of hostages and the delivery of relief at a level corresponding to the dramatic needs of the people in Gaza, where a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in front of our eyes.”
Despite the innocent victims who have lost their lives in Israel, the UN secretary believes that Israel will create what seems to be a growing consensus in the international community, including a lack of demand from allies that have failed to call for a ceasefire but humanitarian aid for Gaza.
“Regrettably, instead of a pause, I was surprised by an unprecedented escalation of the bombardments and their devastating impacts, undermining the referred humanitarian objectives,” lamented the UN chief. “This situation must be reversed. I want to repeat what I said yesterday. This is the moment of truth. Everyone must assume their responsibilities. History will judge us all.”
As days of prayer intensify around the globe, the World Health Organization (WHO) worries about the lack of communication and the electrical blackout caused by the hostilities and ground incursions in Gaza.
The UN health agency reports that it has lost contact with staff members in the enclave but is still trying to gather as much information as possible on the overall impact on civilians and their healthcare needs.
“WHO reminds all parties to the conflict to take all precautions to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure,” WHO said in a press release. “This includes health workers, patients, health facilities, ambulances, and civilians who are sheltering in these facilities.”
Nonetheless, the message given by the WHO and the prayers of Pope Francis seems not to have been delivered to world leaders. The US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, sent a second batch of aircraft carriers to the region for combat in mid-October.
“I have directed the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (CSG) to begin moving to the Eastern Mediterranean,” said Austin in a press release. “As part of our effort to deter hostile actions against Israel or any efforts toward widening this war following Hamas’s attack on Israel.”
The mission sent included Air Force fighter jets, guided-missile destroyers, nine aircraft squadrons, thousands of munitions to resupply, and embarked headquarters staff.
Despite the lack of attention to the Pope’s message, the successor of Saint Peter thanked those who “in so many places and in different ways” have made the effort to join the day of prayer, along with fasts and penances for peace in the world.
“Let’s continue to pray for Ukraine and for the serious situation in Palestine and Israel, and for other regions with wars,” Francis said. “Stop yourselves, brothers and sisters, war is always defeated. Always! Always!”
Last updated on October 30, 2023 by Ramón Warini