VATICAN CITY (RNS) As Israel continued its ground offensive into the Gaza Strip, Pope Francis urged Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to end the spiraling conflict.
The pontiff telephoned the two leaders on Friday (July 18) to express “his very serious concerns” only six weeks after both me joined him at the Vatican for an historic prayer meeting.
Francis said he was concerned about the “climate of growing hostility, hatred and suffering” that was claiming many victims, resulting in “a serious humanitarian emergency”, the Vatican said in a statement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who did not attend the Vatican prayer meeting in June, has said he is prepared to “significantly widen” Israel’s action against militants in the Gaza Strip.
Thousands of troops moved into areas of Gaza on Thursday night, backed by tanks and artillery fire, while Hamas, the Palestinian organization that controls Gaza, has warned Israel will “pay a high price” for the invasion.
At the end of the joint prayer service with Peres and Abbas in June, Francis urged the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to act with courage and seek peace in the Middle East.
Given the rapidly degenerating situation in Gaza, the pope’s plea now seems like a very dim prospect.
The Vatican said the pope considers the two men to be “men of peace” and Francis reminded the two leaders of the need for both sides and those who hold political office to work to end the hostilities and promote peace.
The pope also sent a personal message to 200 Catholic missionaries working in Gaza to express his support and tell them he was praying for them, according to the Italian daily La Stampa.
Any attempt to put equal blame on Hamas/PA and Israel is flat out deception and evil. Israel has the right to exist. Hamas loves casualties because it helps fuel their PR campaign. They have forced civilian Palestinians back into the war zone after numerous warnings from Israel to save them from harm. Hamas’ practices are sick and cowardly. All the power players in the world against Israel are working for satan. They will never accept Israel’s right to exist because they hate Israel and the God of Israel. No peace will come until the Prince of peace, The Lord Jesus Christ, Israel’s Messiah arrives. Maranatha!
“Israel has the right to exist.” I fully affirm this, but I have no clue how it also means that Israel has the right to bomb hospitals and schools. If a nation “exists,” it must also receive criticism when it acts unjustly. Jews within Israel are speaking out against the current violence, and being arrested for doing so.
I do not believe that the nation of Israel is equivalent to the biblical Israel. Yes, Come Lord Jesus. But until then let those of us who follow him call each other to justice and mercy, not the slaughter of our neighbors.
“Israel has the right to exist.”
I would also agree with this, though with perhaps a small but important correction: Israel has *a* right to exist, not *the* right to exist. Israel does not have a monopoly on the right to exist. Considering the amount of killing going on right now (and as Liv mentioned, children and hospital patients), I think that’s an important distinction.