Pope Francis condemns 'senseless tragedy of war' amid Gaza conflict

Pontiff says war has 'robbed children of their future' in letter published before Easter holiday

Pope Francis has called for worshippers to pray for peace as violence rages in Gaza Strip. Reuters
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Pope Francis denounced the “senseless tragedy of war” and pledged support to Christians caught up in conflict in an impassioned message delivered amid a worsening humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

The pontiff lamented children being “robbed of their future” and said he was aware of the “suffering and struggles” endured by many, in a letter directed to Catholics in the region and that was shared online by the Vatican.

He criticised the “pointless folly of war” scarring the world and urged worshippers to pray for peace before the Easter holiday.

While Pope Francis did not mention Palestine or Gaza by name in the letter, the Holy Land is considered by the Catholic faith to encompass Israel and Palestine.

The death toll in Gaza has risen to more than 32,400, with 74,889 injured since the conflict broke out in October. Most of Gaza's 2.3 million population have been displaced during the fighting.

“I embrace all of you, in the variety of your rites, dear Catholic faithful living throughout the Holy Land,” the letter said. “In a particular way, I embrace those most affected by the senseless tragedy of war: the children robbed of their future, those who grieve and are in pain, and all who find themselves prey to anguish and dismay.

“Dear brothers and sisters, allow me to tell you once more that you are not alone; we will never leave you alone, but will demonstrate our solidarity with you by prayer and practical charity.

“Once more, I ask Christians throughout the world to manifest their concrete support for you and to pray tirelessly that all the people of your beloved land may dwell at last in peace.”

Solidarity with Gaza

Pope Francis has emphasised his support for innocent victims of the Israel-Gaza war and other conflicts.

“The distinction between military and civil objectives is no longer respected,” the Pope, 87, said in a new year's address to diplomats at the Vatican.

“There is no conflict that does not end up in some way indiscriminately striking the civilian population. The events in Ukraine and Gaza are clear proof of this.

“We must not forget that grave violations of international humanitarian law are war crimes.”

Since the early days of conflict in October, Pope Francis has made daily calls to a small community of Christians sheltering in the last remaining Roman Catholic church in Gaza.

Priests and nuns have gathered over recent months to hear the Pope speak in the stairwell of the Holy Family Church.

“Every day the Pope calls us, he prays for all of us and comforts us,” Sister Nabila Saleh, of the Rosary Sisters School in Gaza, told The National in October.

“Pope Francis is working to make peace possible. We know we are in his prayers.”

Updated: March 28, 2024, 11:34 AM