Pope Francis has warned that the latest outbreak of violence on the Gaza border is only hurting chances of peace in the Middle East, saying ‘war begets war’.
More than 60 Palestinians have been killed – many by Israeli live fire – in the last two days amid violent demonstrations over the opening of a new US embassy in Jerusalem.
Francis said he was ‘very worried and pained’ at the bloodshed and expressed his ‘great pain for the dead and wounded’ and all those who suffer.
Strong words: Pope Francis holds his homily as a gust of wind catches his mantle during his weekly audience in St. Peter’s square in Vatican City, Vatican, where he made an appeal for peace in the Holy Land
Leading thousands of people in prayer at the Vatican on Wednesday at the end of his weekly general audience, he said the use of violence can never bring about peace.
‘War begets war, violence begets violence,’ he said.
Francis didn’t single out either the Israelis or the Palestinians in his comments, instead urging all sides and the international community to ‘renew their commitment so that dialogue, justice and peace prevail.’
He added, though, a special greeting to Muslims who are celebrating Ramadan, saying: ‘May this privileged time of prayer and fasting help those to walk along the path of God, which is the path of peace.’
Are we there yet? Pope Francis checks his watch as he arrives for his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican
Francis’ appeal came after Israeli soldiers shot and killed 59 Palestinians and wounded hundreds in mass protests at the Gaza border, part of a weeks-long campaign to break a border blockade that Israel and Egypt imposed after Hamas took over Gaza by force in 2007.
The latest bloodshed came on the same day the United States opened its embassy to Israel in Jerusalem after relocating it from Tel Aviv. Palestinians seek Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as a future capital.
Francis has previously responded to the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by urging respect for the status quo of the holy city.
The Vatican has long sought an internationally guaranteed status for Jerusalem that safeguards its sacred character for Jews, Muslims and Christians.
The Holy See recognized the Palestinian state in 2015 and has long been viewed as being sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.