By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — “War is a defeat,” Pope Francis insisted as he called for prayers for peace in Israel and Palestine.
Speaking to thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square Oct. 8 for the recitation of the Angelus prayer, the pope said he is following events in Israel and Gaza “with apprehension and sorrow.”
A day earlier, militants in Gaza launched a massive attack on southern Israel, firing rockets and breaching the border.
Pilgrims from around the world scrambled to leave the area in the wake of the attack. Three tour groups that included lay people and clergy from the Archdiocese of Louisville were in the Holy Land when the conflict erupted, according to archdiocesan officials. The groups were reportedly unharmed and able to leave as of Monday, Oct. 9.
Speaking to people gathered for midday Sunday prayer, Pope Francis said, “The violence has exploded even more ferociously, causing hundreds of deaths and casualties.” By the time he spoke, Israeli officials were reporting at least 250 people had been killed and officials in Gaza said the death toll among Palestinians was over 300. The numbers continue to escalate along with the fighting.
“I express my closeness to the families and victims,” Pope Francis said. “I am praying for them and for all who are living hours of terror and anguish.”
“May the attacks and weapons cease,” he said. “Please!”
“And let it be understood that terrorism and war do not lead to any resolutions, but only to the death and suffering of so many innocent people,” Pope Francis said. “War is a defeat! Let us pray that there be peace in Israel and in Palestine.”
During October, the month traditionally devoted to the rosary, the pope asked Catholics to pray for Mary’s intercession “for the gift peace in the many countries throughout the world marked by war and conflicts. And let us continue to remember the dear Ukraine, which suffers so much every day, which is so battered.”