Pope Francis denounces spiral of violence in the Holy Land

Mourners carry the body of 8-month-old Palestinian Laila al-Ghandour, who died after inhaling tear gas at the Israel-Gaza border during a May 15 protest against the U.S embassy move to Jerusalem. (CNS photo/Mohammed Salem, Reuters)

Pope Francis said he is “very concerned at [the] worsening of tensions in Holy Land and Middle East” and denounced “the spiral of violence that pushes us further away from the path of peace, dialogue and negotiations.”

He repeated again that “it is not the use of violence that leads to peace. War calls on war, violence calls on violence.” He called on “all the sides involved and the international community to renew the commitment so that dialogue, justice and peace may prevail.”

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Francis spoke after one of the worst days of violence in the Holy Land since 2014. 

Francis spoke after one of the worst days of violence in the Holy Land since 2014. Israeli soldiers shot and killed some 63 Palestinians at the Gaza border and injured around 2,700 Palestinians according to international media reports. Among those killed was one 12-year-old and seven 16-year-old youths, the reports said, and a child of eight months also died as a result of tear gas.

Pope Francis expressed his “great sorrow for the dead and injured” and assured “all those that suffer” there that he is “close [to them] with prayer and affection.”

The killings took place as Palestinians in Gaza protested at the frontier fence with Israel on May 14 and Israeli snipers shot them. While the protests have being going on for over a month, that particular day was the eve of the 70th anniversary of what Palestinians call the “Nakba” (or great catastrophe) when the state of Israel was created and a great many of them were dispossessed of their lands.

“It is not the use of violence that leads to peace,” the pope said. “War calls on war, violence calls on violence.”

It was the worst day of violence in recent times, and it came as the United States, ignoring the consensus of the international community, opened its embassy in Jerusalem, in a step that most observers, including those in Vatican and other Catholic circles, believe does not contribute to peace in the Holy Land.

In his speech to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See on Jan. 8, Pope Francis made clear the Holy See’s opposition to the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. Though for diplomatic reasons the pope did not explicitly mention the embassy by name, Vatican sources told America that his call for the maintenance of the “status quo” in Jerusalem was in direct relation to this matter.

In that speech, he said:

The Holy See renews its pressing appeal that every initiative be carefully weighed so as to avoid exacerbating hostilities, and calls for a common commitment to respect, in conformity with the relevant United Nations Resolutions, the status quo of Jerusalem, a city sacred to Christians, Jews and Muslims. Seventy years of confrontation make more urgent than ever the need for a political solution that allows the presence in the region of two independent states within internationally recognized borders. Despite the difficulties, a willingness to engage in dialogue and to resume negotiations remains the clearest way to achieving at last a peaceful coexistence between the two peoples.

Pope Francis’ statement today, also written in diplomatic language, was significant because it opened by speaking about “worsening tensions” in the Holy Land and the Middle East. An informed source told America that Francis did not use the words “Gaza,” “Israeli” or “Palestinian” so as to keep open the possibility of being able to dialogue with both sides and to make a contribution to peace in the Holy Land, something that is nowhere on the horizon today. At the same time, the statement rejected the use of violence to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and underlined the urgent need for both sides—with the help of the international community—to return to the path of negotiations as as the only way to justice and peace in a conflict that has lasted 70 years.

The pope read his statement at the end of his Wednesday public audience in St. Peter’s Square on May 16, attended by thousands of pilgrims from many countries. He asked all present to pray to Mary “the Queen of peace” for the intentions he had mentioned and invited them to join him in praying the “Ave Maria.”

He concluded his statement by extending his “cordial good wishes” to Muslims worldwide “for the month of Ramadan which begins tomorrow,” May 17. “May this privileged time of prayer and fasting help [believers] to walk on the way of God which is the way of peace.”

J Cosgrove
1 week 1 day ago

Maybe America, the magazine, should host an honest debate about the two state solution. It must include representatives from both points of view. Not just token representatives.

I understand that all these protests are going on in Gaza and not the West Bank.

William Bannon
1 week 1 day ago

Dialogue when possible yes....but the add on theme of pacifism is serpentine. It’s the spanking new...violence begets violence theme.....which means Japan and Germany should by that logic have wreaked revenge on the West since the end of WWII. But that didn’t happen at all. They both blessed the world with wonderfully made cars instead...and an end of their trying to kill others.

rose-ellen caminer
1 week 1 day ago

The message of the Israeli government is clear; we are not interested in peace with Palestinians; if you oppose us in any way, we will kill you! What Israel did is a crime against humanity. What the Palestinians did is a legitimate expression of despair at having their basic rights violated. An occupying power is responsible for the people it occupies and the Palestinians are being systematically mistreated by the Israeli government.

The US did not annex land from Germany or Japan. Or mistreat the German or the Japanese people once they surrendered. There was no ethnic cleansing of German or Japanese people by the US to be replaced by American settlers. Israel keeps building "for Jewish people only" settlements on contested land. [ apartheid].[ When in India the British had their; for ;Europeans only ; only enclaves; from which we got our racist enclaves called the country club, eventually the Indian people did object , violently. Ghandi tamped down the violent resistance to that similar racist injustice. .And that was the start of the end of the British empire].The rights of German and Japanese people , including the right of being a free citizen of a country ,were not systematically being violated by the Americans after the war. THAT's why they were able to prosper.
Comparing the situation of Palestinians today to that of Germany and Japan after the war, is willful ignorance or contempt for Palestinians; those people should submit to having their rights violated including the most primal of rights; to not be shot at and murdered when demonstrating without guns.

William Bannon
1 week 1 day ago

Is there anything you’re not telling us about Gazans? Little things that escape your paradigm....threats to annihilate Jews by some of those who elected Hamas...
knifings of Israeli women waiting for a bus...knifing of men your dad’s age as they walk the streets....missiles stored in Gaza UN schools....NO SURRENDER AT ALL as with the Japanese and Germans. Don’t worry....you reached the new sanctfying grace audience...if a group is poor...it is therefore unimpeachable. Christ however did not sell that line. He cured ten poor lepers and held nine responsible for not thanking him....out loud.
Can you imagine any Asian group not turning Gaza into a success...first by kicking out all extremists...showing Israel that and then getting trade concessions in return. Gazans are drawn toward failure and poverty by their choices...like bringing babies to where they know they will be in danger....bringing six year olds to where they know they might get hit by stray bullets. People have what they want to have in some cases. Gazans want this drama...they want the baby subconsciously to get injured so that they can scream in victimhood. Would there be any burning tires without cnn cameras. I doubt it. Really poor people as in Cuba do not waste any tires...they retread them. Do you see any old clothes or malnutrition in these large groups? The US is probably still paying them welfare...as forty percent chill all day. Try to imagine any Asian group wallowing in whining in that situation....they’d turn Gaza into a success by throwing out Hamas as step one.

Robert Lewis
1 week 1 day ago

Nice that you demonize the Gazans for not being like Americans or like "Asians," without any regard for the fact that CERTAIN indigenous people have a deep and abiding connection with their ancestral homelands. Sound familiar? It certainly seems like it should, to you, since one may tell, from reading another one of your heartless comments, that you have no sympathy for the genocided Native Americans, either.
But I'll use this occasion, too, in order to suggest what I consider to be the only natural--and inevitable--outcome to this impasse:
No Israeli government will uproot the settlements, which already make a contiguous, autonomous and independent Palestinian state impossible. The "two state solution" is finished. The only solution to this conflict that is left is a pluralist, non-theocratic and secular state of Israel-Palestine, with a limited "right of return", and a settlement that gives Palestinian Arabs and Jewish Israelis the same, equal civil rights in ONE state. Unfortunately, the Palestinians have never had the kind of leader--cut from the same cloth as a Mahatma Gandhi or a Martin Luther King--who would lead them in a campaign of non-violent civil disobedience, "ahimsa," that, though it might cost lives, would alert the whole world regarding the transformation, under the influence of an ethno-nationalist, right-wing ideology, of Zionism into something that its nineteenth and twentieth century founders never intended. I predict, however, that that day is coming, and that what will mark its imminence will be the decline, in America, of the influence of "dispensationalism."

William Bannon
1 week 1 day ago

Your second paragraph was interesting but the type of Islam in many Gazans works against their choosing your paradigm. I spent weeks reading not only the Koran but the canonical hadiths which are just as susceptible to murder as the Koran late verses actually as one sees in the knifings. Liberal or modernist muslims skirt over such things or restrict them to Muhammed’s original context...but all extremists or conservatives also share the opposite view...that violence is actually wonderful...not something to be regretted and are not simply meant for the ancient context. Your paradigm seems to imagine the more liberal muslim mind of most not all Indonesian muslims. But Gazans....I think they are addicted to the long term goal of the Koran....rulership by Muslims probably by force....Jerusalem as the site of Muhammed’s night journey to paradise...and people of the book as paying extortion tax to them to save their lives...else they have the right to kill them. Their job is to have sharia rule the earth eventually. Liberal muslims are kind of cafeteria....skipping passages or finding non logical excuses for them as is repeatedly done for the wife beating sura. Your idea is nice but it needs different muslims.

rose-ellen caminer
1 week 1 day ago

Right wing Israeli's talk the same way about Arabs. Oppressed people resort to violence. What else is new. The borders of the Palestinians are illegal borders. Israel has taken more land then it is entitled to since it became a state. Israel controls the Gaza, and so is responsible for the oppressive conditions of the Gazans. Their oppressive conditions, and the cleansing of Palestinians from the land Israeli's take illegally, is the issue today . Stray bullets? You have snipers firing into a crowd! Why is the military opening fire on demonstrators who are not on the other side of the occupied border? People in a democracy, as Israel claims to be should not have to worry about bringing children to an unarmed demonstration, as we have them here. Palestinians are a traumatized people, in despair and suffering much under Israel's control. Desperate people do desperate things. Even if they did cross the border , it would not justify killing them. Cubans made their own revolution, all Cubans are full citizens of a sovereign country; they are not having their rights violated by a country they are not citizens of, or being removed by settlers for not being of the same religion as the settlers. What you are saying ; these people are not like other people ,they are not like the "good Asians" , they are "drawn to failure' , "they want the drama", blah blah, blah is the same smearing of ones targeted group, bigots always say.

Palestinians ARE the victims, as Israel acts like a renegade state, behaving lawlessly;stealing land and oppressing its subjected people based on their religion, while getting away with cold blooded murder as what just happened. Hamas is not the problem; Israel's apartheid ideology, unjust conditions of occupation , and illegal settlements and land annexation are the problem. Israel supported Hamas back when the secular resistance movement the PLO was around. Israel just want the Palestinians to disappear.

William Bannon
1 week ago

On shooting people. Imagine you are driving amongst a population in the backwoods that is lazy and violent by reputation and your car hits one of their children. Some of them begin throwing three pound stones from half a block away....as a crowd gathers near them and now they are coming toward you. You had gotten out of your car and now you run to a nearby house where a nice man lets you in...sees the particular group that is coming for you....so he gets his shotgun. He is doing the right thing ( this recently happened to a black woman in a very backward black neighborhood who beat her senseless ). The group chasing you are unarmed ..unarmed.....unarmed...but they by their greater numbers can kill you and the man by constant punches and kicks til you both are dead. That’s why he has the right to fire at their feet first but if that does not stop their advance...killing one of them will stop their advance...while you get on a phone and call police. A large group breaking through a fence into the soldiers area but with greater numbers is a lethal weapon itself by being a larger group by numbers than the soldiers and can be shot. I had a house break in as I arrived home four years ago....and the man left out the side door with my blue athletic bag holding that which he stole. But in my house are lethal weapons and I’m an excellent non weapons fighter and I mugged him out on the sidewalk...got everything back including a lethal weapon. Told police what I did. They affirmed my choice. The man hinted he might return to shoot me. I have motion detectors and two shotguns. I’d kill him in a second if he lifted a pistol in my direction even though history has disadvantaged his group. Poverty was zero excuse with Christ for violent theft. Christ had not one good word for the bad thief on the cross...not the good thief....the bad thief.

rose-ellen caminer
1 week ago

Trespassing on ones private property is not the same as crossing a political border; migrants and refugees do it all the time, and using lethal power to stop them is murder. The Gaza border is immoral as people are deprived from crossing it based solely on their religion. Gazan's have no nation state and all people have the right to be free citizens of a country. Israelis build settlements on land they take by force, which is illegal and immoral as they are apartheid settlements. These protesters were not even right at the border. They were shot by snipers like shooting in a barrel.
The violent theft has been the theft by the Israelis, not the Palestinians who have been cleansed from their land and now are under control of the Israelis who oppress them at every turn, making their lives in that Israeli controlled open prison wretched. People made wretched under the thumb of unjust over lords will always resist oppression.Crossing into an area that they have been forcibly prevented from being in solely because of their religion [apartheid ], is not thievery , its resistance to injustice. Like trespassing to end segregation]. Solidarity belongs with those oppressed; the Israelis play the victim card when they are the victimizers and their government is committing crimes, including crimes against humanity as this massacre was. Anyone with any sense of fairness, and belief in universal human rights , sees this.

William Bannon
1 week ago

Muslim migrants into Europe are not like Latino migrants and have done a substantial number of crimes both sexual in Germany ( hundreds) and terrorist in other cases as in use of vehicles to run over people in Britain, the US, and France. Your conflating of all migrants causes readers to stop reading you about five sentences in. You have no anti fibbing controls on what you write. You know a people with a history of knifing Israeli civilians which people are also blocked by Sunni Egypt cannot be the same as all migrants...yet you throw the pasta and see if it will stick to the wall....what the hell.

rose-ellen caminer
1 week ago

Crimes are not unique to Muslims. Whether immigrants or not. Most Muslim refugees like most Latino migrants do NOT commit crimes or terrorist acts. But some do. Latino migrants travel in caravans for fear of very real sexual predators and other crimes that include murder. There are more Muslims in Europe then in the US and most are peaceful law abiding people. Marginalized groups do have a higher percentage of crimes then the privileged group, here as well as in Europe . Whether Blacks, Latinos, or Muslims. Here in the US Muslims commit less crimes then other minorities . A handful have committed terrorists acts here and in Europe. And if YOU were honest you would acknowledge this. You are repeating false malicious propaganda. You are bearing false witness against your neighbor, that is a sin.

Some Palestinains have knifed Israeli citizens. And some Israelis have killed Palestinians.But it is the Israeli government that has massacred Palestinians. And has a policy of doing so against any resistance to its illegal and immoral oppression.

Refugees in Europe today are not from Palestine.Some Palestinians are Christian. You are the one conflating.Lumping all Muslims together is lazy and or racist. It's certainly disinformation.Violence is not unique to Muslims or to Palestinians. Palestinians are a persecuted people whose rights are being violated systematically by the Israelis. So desperation occurs which leads to violent atrocious crimes. We acknowledge this when other marginalized people commit violent crimes. The lastino gang m13 engages in atrotious violence today as a result of the conditions they come from in central America. Mexican drug cartels have, like isis, beheaded people and placed their heads on display for all to see. Mexican gangs have kidnapped and tortured students to death! You are a racist; telling us that a woman who resists intruders is Black. As if that were relevant to the incident. That you tell us she is Black, like your telling us that Latino migrants are unlike, those people, not violent , is your way of saying that these persecuted groups[ Blacks and Latinos] which we used to dehumanize by blaming them when we oppressed them, are now bona fide humans.[ That is so generous of you. ]But fear not bigots, your totalizing good vs evil identity labeling says, we have another marginalized [literally regarding Palestinians as they are forced to live in the margins imposed by the controlling Israeli state] group we now dehumanize!
Just as past hateful bigots had to come along, grudgingly at first, and recognize the humanity of marginalized Blacks and Latinos, you or your descendants, will come along and recognize the humanity of Muslims and of Palestinians. Enjoy spewing this latest bigotry while its still acceptable. This too will pass.

For now the good news is that for all your expressed hatred of Muslims and Palestinians, in the US, they walk the streets as free as you are. Some dress in full Muslims garb [which must really be painful for a hateful bigot like you to see],[lol]and here, unlike in the apartheid criminal state of Israel, they have equal rights, and if you harass them YOU will be charged with a hate crime![lol]

Eugene Fitzpatrick
1 week ago

I wish to thank you for the time and wisdom you expended in addressing the several intellectually and ethically barren pro-Zionist comments made in regards to this article. I hope you continue to use your communicative talent in the cause of suffering Palestine.

William Bannon
1 week ago

Rose-ellen,
Gaza is 98% Sunni Muslim (1% Christian...1% other) and Egypt (also Sunni Muslim) blockades them just as Israel does but on their southern border and Egypt aids Israel in the air and sea blockade of Gaza. Do the research...find out why. Is Sunni Muslim Egypt biased against Palestinian Sunni Muslims?.. You’re using your imagination constantly....that’s why your writing has no hard data, no percents.
Try reading. Find out why Sunnis are blockading Gazan Sunnis just as Israel is. Why would Sunni Muslim Egypt blockade Gazan Muslims who just have a few bad apples but many peaceful people?

Steve Magnotta
1 week 1 day ago

Brava Papa. Amen.

Joan Ghali
1 week ago

Beautiful...Amen Steve .

Will Niermeyer
1 week ago

The Palestinians are closed to "the path of peace, dialogue and negotiations.” Now they must be driven out of the land that belongs to the Jews.

Julie A Miller
1 week ago

Setting aside Hamas egging on the assault on the border, and Israel reacting with live ammo- why on earth would anyone bring an 8 month old child to a conflict zone? The child shown in the photograph was recklessly sacrificed by someone who cared more about their "cause" than their baby.

William Bannon
1 week ago

The nytimes has a full article on the baby today....quite balanced. A heart condition in the baby might be the whole cause of death or not. A twelve year old first took her on the bus thinking the mom had already left for the protest....the mom was home with a tooth problem. Would she have taken her otherwise? Others did...but who knows.

Joan Ghali
1 week ago

Bravo Pope Francis... thank you sincerely...You are truly Christ's compassionate voice on Earth today...and with you , we all wish 'Ramadan Mubarak 'to our beautiful Muslim brothers and sisters .#PEACE on #EARTH #PEACE with #JUSTICE

William Bannon
6 days 18 hours ago

Hamas official asserted today that 50 of the 60 killed were Hamas members which greatly reduces the unjustified shooting narrative since it is likely that 50 were doing fence cutting or a host of non peace acts.

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