Pope meets with family members of Hamas hostages

Pope Francis speaks with the family members of Israeli hostages held in captivity by Hamas during a meeting at the Vatican April 8, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

By Justin McLellan, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Eight people united in their anguish carried into the papal library posters bearing the faces of their loved ones who are held in captivity by Hamas.

The father, mother, aunt, uncle, cousin, brother or twin sister of various Israeli hostages met with Pope Francis for just under an hour April 8, six months after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas in which some 240 people were kidnapped and taken to Gaza.

Vatican News reported that among those who met with the pope was Bezalel Shnaider, the aunt of Shiri Bibas — an Israeli mother taken hostage along with her two sons, 4-year-old Ariel and 9-month-old Kfir, the youngest hostage taken in the Oct. 7 attacks.

In an edited video of the meeting posted on X by L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, Pope Francis touched his hand to a poster with images of the children to bless them.

The video also showed Amit Nimrodi giving Pope Francis a necklace bearing the image of a house with a heart inside, a symbol of support for the hostages, and he told the pope that he began growing out his now-lengthy white beard when his son was taken hostage since he believes his son, an Israeli soldier, is also growing out his beard in captivity.

Gal Gilboa-Dalal, another member of the delegation, survived the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on a music festival in Re’im, Israel, but his brother, 22-year-old Guy, was taken prisoner by Hamas. Li-Yam Berger attended the audience in support of her twin sister, Agam, a 19-year-old Israeli soldier, who was kidnapped during an attack military base in Nahal Oz, Israel, Oct. 7.

The delegation was scheduled to travel through Italy, meeting with government representatives and members of the Italian Jewish community.

In November Pope Francis had met at the Vatican with 12 relatives of 14 Israelis held hostage by Hamas and, separately, with 10 Palestinians whose family members were suffering under the Israeli siege of Gaza. The Vatican press office insisted the meetings were “of an exclusively humanitarian nature.”

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