Pope Francis on Wednesday met separately with Israeli relatives of hostages held by Hamas and Palestinians with family in Gaza and said the conflict had gone beyond war to become “terrorism”.
Speaking in unscripted remarks at his Wednesday general audience in St. Peter’s Square shortly after the early morning meetings in his residence, Francis said he heard directly how “both sides are suffering” in the conflict.
“This is what wars do. But here we have gone beyond wars. This is not war. This is terrorism,” he said.
He asked for prayers so that both sides would “not go ahead with passions, which in the end, kill everyone”.
Both groups were holding separate news conferences later on Wednesday.
The meetings and the pope’s comments came hours after Israel’s government and Hamas agreed to silence the guns in Gaza for at least four days, allow in aid and release at least 50 hostages captured by militants in exchange for at least 150 Palestinians jailed in Israel.
Israel has placed Gaza under siege and relentless bombardment since a Hamas attack on Oct. 7, which killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli tallies.
Since then, more than 13,000 Gazans have been killed, about 40% of them children, according to medical officials in the Hamas-ruled territory, figures deemed reliable by the United Nations.