Pope Francis is scheduled to meet with relatives of Israeli hostages currently held by Hamas militants in Gaza, Vatican sources revealed on Friday. The meeting, set to occur early Wednesday morning before the Pope’s weekly general audience, marks a significant moment in the ongoing crisis between Israel and Hamas.
Diverse Group of Relatives to Meet the Pope
A Vatican source, preferring anonymity due to restrictions on discussing papal plans, informed Reuters that the group meeting Pope Francis would include 12 family members. This group represents a mix of relatives who previously met with Italian leaders last month and others who were not part of the initial delegation.
Vatican’s Stance on the Crisis
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State and second in command to Pope Francis, emphasized the Holy See’s position on the crisis. Speaking at a conference in Rome, Cardinal Parolin highlighted that the release of the hostages and the initiation of a ceasefire are “two fundamental points” necessary for resolving the ongoing tension. He noted that Israel has so far ruled out a ceasefire.
Efforts Toward Humanitarian Aid
The Vatican’s efforts extend beyond the scheduled meeting. Cardinal Parolin underscored the urgency of addressing humanitarian aspects, including the plight of “men, women, children, newborns, and pregnant women” among the hostages. He also called for a ceasefire to facilitate aid delivery, medical care for the injured, and other humanitarian efforts.
Background of the Hostage Crisis
The crisis traces back to October 7, when Hamas militants stormed southern Israel, taking about 240 hostages. Pope Francis has since made several appeals for their release and the establishment of a ceasefire, highlighting the need for humanitarian aid in Gaza.
Complications in Aid Delivery
Further exacerbating the situation, United Nations aid deliveries to Gaza were halted on Friday due to fuel shortages and a communications shutdown. This development deepens the hardships faced by thousands of Palestinians, who are already struggling with hunger and displacement amid the conflict.