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.”
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.”