Stop war from spreading throughout Middle East, pope says in message

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service
Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Pope Francis meets with two fathers who both lost their daughters in violent conflicts, Bassam Aramin from Palestine, right, and Rami Elhanan from Israel, before his weekly general audience in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican March 27, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY — One day before Iran launched missiles and exploding drones at Israel, Pope Francis sent a message to viewers of Saudi Arabia’s Al Arabiya Network pleading for peace throughout the Middle East.

“The light of life, which shines all around us and embraces us from on high, calls us to leave behind the dark night of hatred, so that, in accordance with the Creator’s will, stars may shine brightly upon our world, rather than the glare of missiles lighting up the heavens and raining down fire to devastate the earth,” the pope wrote in the message released the evening of April 12.

The next night, Iran launched hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel; most were intercepted. The only serious injury reported by Israeli media involved a 7-year-old girl from a Bedouin community who was rushed to the hospital with a head injury after being hit by shrapnel.

Pope Francis urged the people of the Middle East to think of the children.

“Let us all look to the future with the eyes of children,” he said. “They do not ask who is the enemy to be destroyed, but who are the friends with whom they can play. They need homes, parks and schools, not tombs and mass graves.”

Pope Francis said the recent celebrations of Eid al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan and of Easter call believers to “lift our eyes to heaven and to worship the Lord, ‘merciful and almighty,’” an attitude that “stands in sharp contrast with the sorrow we feel for the blood presently being shed in the blessed lands of the Middle East.”

“God is peace and he desires peace,” the pope said.

Believers in God must oppose war, which does not resolve problems but only increases hostility, he said. “It does not open new vistas but stifles all hope.”

Peace is possible, he said, but people must set aside their hatred and prejudices and instead respect the beliefs of others and recognize their right to exist and to live in security and that includes the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to have their own nations.

Pope Francis again called for “an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, where a humanitarian catastrophe is ongoing. May aid be allowed to reach the Palestinian people who are suffering greatly,” and he repeated his call for Hamas to release the hostages kidnapped in Israel in October.

But he said he also was worried about Syria, Lebanon and the entire Middle East.

“Let us not allow the flames of resentment to spread, fanned by the baleful winds of the arms race,” he said. “Let us not allow war to spread! Let us put an end to the inertia of evil!”


  • middle east
  • christians in the middle east
  • gaza

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