On Monday, the delegate of Pope Francis in the Holy Land declared his willingness to trade himself for Israeli youngsters held as hostages in Gaza by Hamas.
During a video conference with Italian journalists, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, responded to a question with a statement.
“The first thing to do is to try to win the release of the hostages, otherwise there will be no way of stopping (an escalation). We are willing to help, even me personally,” he said.
He stressed, however, that he and his office had not yet had any direct contact with Hamas, the militant Islamist group that attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,300 people.
“You can’t talk to Hamas. It is very difficult,” he said.
About 200 people were taken hostage and about a dozen of them are believed to be children.
Pizzaballa oversees Roman Catholic activities in Israel and the Palestinian territories as well as Jordan and Cyprus, a region which is home to an estimated 300,000 Roman Catholics.
Diplomatic efforts have been intensifying to get aid into Gaza as Israel prepares a ground invasion to destroy Hamas.
Authorities in Gaza said at least 2,750 people had so far been killed by the Israeli strikes, a quarter of them children, and nearly 10,000 wounded. Another 1,000 people were missing and believed to be under rubble.