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Gerard O’ConnellDecember 03, 2023
Monsignor Paolo Braida reading Pope Francis’s message on Dec. 3 (Vatican Media)Monsignor Paolo Braida reading Pope Francis’s message on Dec. 3 (Vatican Media)

Pope Francis, describing the situation in Israel and Palestine as “serious” on Dec. 3 following the breakdown of the week-long truce and the renewal of bombing, made a passionate appeal for “a new agreement for a ceasefire” and the search for “the courageous paths to peace.”

Speaking by live television from Santa Marta, the Vatican guesthouse where he lives, the 86-year-old pope, who clearly has not yet fully recovered from a week-long bout of acute bronchitis, issued his heartfelt appeal for “a new ceasefire agreement” when he greeted thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square, who watched on large screens, at midday on Sunday, Dec. 3.

Greeting people at the beginning of the traditional midday Angelus, the pope told them his health condition was “improving,” but said he was not up to reading the catechesis: “Today also I am not able to read everything; I am improving, but my voice is still not up to it.” He said a Vatican official, Monsignor Paolo Braida, would read the texts. Although Francis coughed a little and looked somewhat tired, he recited the Angelus prayer but, unlike last week, he asked the Vatican monsignor to also read the messages after the Angelus, including his appeal for a new ceasefire in the Holy Land.

Speaking by live television from Santa Marta, the 86-year-old pope, who clearly has not yet fully recovered from a week-long bout of acute bronchitis, issued his heartfelt appeal for “a new ceasefire agreement.”

“The situation in Israel and Palestine is serious,” he said. “It is painful that the truce was broken,” he said, adding that “this means death, destruction and misery.”

He recalled how “many [of the 240] hostages were released but many are still in Gaza.” Francis, who has met relatives of some of the hostages, urged people: “Let us think of them, and their families who saw a light, a hope of embracing again their dear ones.” After the war resumed on Friday, Israel said 136 hostages still remain in Gaza. Seventeen are women and children, while 119 are men, according to the IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari. Ten are over the age of 75, while 11 are foreign nationals, AP reported.

“There’s much suffering in Gaza, the goods of basic necessity are lacking,” Francis said referring to the lack of clean water, food, medicines and shelter for the 2.3 million Palestinians in the 141 square mile Gaza enclave, where today some 1.8 million are crowded in the south of the Gaza strip. No humanitarian aid entered Gaza on Friday and only around 50 trucks were able to enter on Saturday, compared with 500 trucks a day before the war started on Oct. 7. All this is inadequate for the hungry and distraught population, more than 47 percent of whom are under the age of 18.

Hamas launched rockets into Israel on Friday that did almost no damage thanks to the protection of the iron-dome that protects Israelis. Already some 1,200 Israelis had been killed in the Hamas attack on Oct. 7. Israeli bombing of Gaza after the breakdown of the ceasefire brought death to more than 200 Palestinians, including many women and children, adding to the already deadly toll of almost 16,000 Palestinians, among them more than 6,000 children, killed by the time the truce went into effect on Nov. 24.

Pope Francis, who phones the small Catholic community in Gaza almost every day as well as other people in the Holy Land, knows the situation well. He spoke to President Joe Biden on Oct. 22, appealing to him to do everything to stop the war, and he also spoke to Israeli President Isaac Herzog in the last week of October pleading with Israel not to respond to terror with terror, as the Washington Post and the Times of Israel reported.

Today, he renewed his appeal for a stop to the fighting and a new ceasefire. “I hope that all those who are involved may reach, as quickly as possible, a new agreement for a ceasefire and find different solutions to the arms, trying to pursue the courageous paths to peace,” the pope said.

Next, turning to the Philippines, he assured people there of his prayers and closeness following a bomb attack in a Catholic church during Mass this Sunday morning in the autonomous and majority Muslim region of Mindanao. “I wish to assure people of my prayer for the victims of the attack that happened this morning in the Philippines, where a bomb exploded during Mass. I am close to the families and to the people of Mindanao that already have suffered greatly,” he said.

Pope Francis had hoped to attend the UN-sponsored COP28 conference on climate in Dubai this weekend, but he had to cancel his visit on the advice of his doctors. Nevertheless, he delivered a powerful message that was read to the summit by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, on Dec. 2, and today he sent another message for the opening of the Faith Pavilion that was also read by the cardinal. In addition, the pope also recorded a brief video message for the latter occasion.

In his post-Angelus message today, Pope Francis also drew the attention of his global audience to the COP28 conference: “Even at a distance, I follow with great attention the works at the COP28 in Dubai. I am close to them. I renew my appeal that to the climatic changes they respond with concrete political changes. Let us move out of the narrow paths of particular (interests) and nationalisms, the schemes of the past, and embrace a common vision, with everyone committing themselves now, without postponing, to a necessary, global ecological conversion.”

He also drew his audience’s attention to the fact that today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. “To welcome and include those who live with this condition helps the who society to become more human,” he said. He encouraged everyone—families, parishes, schools, work sites, and sport—“to learn to value every person with their qualities and capacities. And not exclude anyone.”

Pope Francis concluded by taking the microphone again to personally wish everyone a “Good Sunday,” and asking them “Please do not forget to pray for me!”

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