Pope Francis urges ‘an immediate cease-fire in Gaza’ that frees hostages, grants aid

March 4, 2024 - 6:52 PM
Pope Francis
Speaking in his Angelus address on March 3 about the Israel-Hamas war, Pope Francis made an emotional plea for negotiations to reach a deal that both frees the hostages immediately and grants civilians access to humanitarian aid. (Vatican Media via CBCP News)

VATICAN — “Enough!” “Stop!” Pope Francis repeated from the window of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on Sunday as he called for Israel and Palestine to reach an agreement for “an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.”

Speaking in his Angelus address on March 3, the pope made an emotional plea for negotiations to reach a deal that both frees the hostages immediately and grants civilians access to humanitarian aid.

“I carry daily in my heart, with sorrow, the suffering of the peoples in Palestine and Israel due to the ongoing hostilities,” the pope said, reflecting on five months of war in Gaza.

“The thousands of dead, the wounded, the displaced, the immense destruction, causes pain, and this with tremendous consequences on the little ones and the defenseless who see their future compromised. I wonder: do you really think you are going to build a better world this way? Do you really think you are going to achieve peace? Enough, please! Let us all say: Stop! Please stop!”

The pope made his appeal as negotiations are underway for a weeks-long cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. President Joe Biden said last week that he believed that a ceasefire could go into effect as early as March 4.

The Associated Press reported that Israel has essentially agreed to a six-week cease-fire framework that would include Hamas releasing some of the most vulnerable of the roughly 130 hostages being held in Gaza, citing a senior U.S. official. A response from Hamas is expected as talks resume in Cairo on March 3.

Pope Francis said: “I encourage the continuation of negotiations for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and throughout the region, so that hostages can be freed immediately and return to their anxiously awaiting loved ones, and the civilian population can have safe access to due and urgent humanitarian aid.”

The pope also urged people not to forget “battered Ukraine where so many people are dying every day.”

Francis gave a shout-out to some young Ukrainians in the crowd gathered below in St. Peter’s Square, thanking them for their commitment to helping those who are suffering due to the war.

The Ukrainians took part in a meeting in Rome organized by the Catholic community of Sant’Egidio with the theme, “Overcome evil with good.”

Pope Francis also made an appeal for disarmament, calling it “a moral duty” for the international community.

“How many resources are wasted on military expenditures, which, because of the current situation, sadly continue to increase,” he said, noting that March 5 will mark the second International Disarmament and Nonproliferation Awareness Day.

“I sincerely hope that the international community understands that disarmament is first and foremost a duty; disarmament is a moral duty,” he added. “This requires courage on the part of all members of the great family of nations to move from the balance of fear to the balance of trust.”

In his reflection on Sunday’s Gospel, Pope Francis spoke about Jesus driving the merchants out of the temple. The pope focused on the difference between “the house of God” and a marketplace.

One goes to “the house of God” to encounter the Lord and to be close to Him, whereas in a market prices are negotiated and “one seeks one’s own interests.”

“The invitation today, also for our Lenten journey, is to build a greater sense of home and less of a sense of ‘a market’ in ourselves and around us,” Pope Francis said.

“First of all, towards God. How? By praying a lot, like children who knock confidently at the Father’s door without getting tired, and not like greedy and distrustful merchants. And then by spreading fraternity. There is a great need for it.”