Pope Francis Welcomes Mideast Truce and Hostage Releases

Pope Francis welcomed a truce that has resulted in the release of some captives in the Middle East on Sunday and prayed for more.

“Today we thank God because there is finally a truce between Israel and Palestine and some hostages have been freed,” the Argentinian pontiff said in a statement read by a Vatican official at the weekly Angelus prayer.

“We pray that they all may be (freed) as rapidly as possible and that more humanitarian aid arrives in Gaza and that they insist on dialogue,” the 86-year-old leader of the Catholic Church added in response to the release Friday and Saturday by Hamas to the Red Cross of 41 Israeli and non-Israeli hostages detained seven weeks ago, while Israel freed 78 Palestinian prisoners.

Dialogue “is the only way, the only path to peace. Those who do not want to hold a dialogue do not want peace,” Francis concluded.

The four-day cease-fire, negotiated by Qatar, Egypt, and the United States, calls for Hamas to release 50 hostages in exchange for Israel to release 150 Palestinian prisoners.

In an extraordinary October 7 attack, Hamas abducted over 240 hostages from southern Israel, killing approximately 1,200 people, the majority of whom were civilians, according to Israeli officials.

In retaliation, Israel has pledged to destroy Hamas, which the US, the EU, and Israel have designated as a terrorist organization. It launched an aerial bombing campaign and ground invasion of Gaza, killing roughly 15,000 people, largely civilians and 6,000 minors, according to the Hamas authority.

As he recovers from a brief bout of sickness, Francis had a colleague deliver his statement as he conducted Sunday’s Angelus prayer from his Casa Santa Marta house rather than facing St Peter’s Square, according to the Vatican news service.

The prayer was live-streamed on screens in St Peter’s Square and on the Vatican News website.

The pope was resting a day after having a CT scan that ruled out lung difficulties and canceling audiences for the day, according to the Vatican, as he recovered from a “light flu.”

Francis is set to deliver a highly anticipated speech at the United Nations Climate Summit in Dubai next Saturday. He is anticipated to criticize many nations’ passivity and encourage them to step up efforts to decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

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