By Ebi Kesiena
Pope Francis has decried children dying in wars, including Gaza, describing the Israeli strikes as reaping an “appalling harvest” of innocent civilians.
Pope Francis noted this on Monday while delivering his Christmas day message.
Francis who also called the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas militants “abominable” again appealed for the release of around 100 hostages still being held in Gaza.
Speaking from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica to thousands of people in the square below, he took another swipe at the armaments industry, saying it ultimately controlled the “puppet-strings of war.”
The 87-year-old Francis, celebrating the 11th Christmas of his pontificate, called for an end to conflicts, political, social or military, in places including Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Armenia and Azerbaijan, and he defended the rights of migrants around the world.
“How many innocents are being slaughtered in our world! In their mothers’ wombs, in odysseys undertaken in desperation and in search of hope, in the lives of all those little ones whose childhood has been devastated by war. They are the little Jesuses of today,” he said.
He gave particular attention to the Holy Land, including Gaza, where, according to Palestinian health officials, Israeli air strikes killed at least 78 people in one of the besieged enclave’s deadliest nights of Israel’s 11-week-old battle with Hamas.
“May it (peace) come in Israel and Palestine, where war is devastating the lives of those peoples. I embrace them all, particularly the Christian communities of Gaza and the entire Holy Land,” Francis said.
Speaking from the same balcony where he first appeared to the world on the night of his election on March 13, 2013, he said his “heart grieves for the victims of the abominable attack of 7 October” and again called for the release of hostages.
Last week, a U.N.-backed body said in a report that the entire 2.3 million population of Gaza was facing crisis levels of hunger and that the risk of famine was increasing every day.
The Vatican, which has diplomatic relations with both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, believes a two-state solution is the only answer to the long-running conflict. Francis called for “persevering dialog between the parties, sustained by strong political will and the support of the international community.”