In the matter of political ideology, some leaders, political
or religious, are principled and others blow with the wind.
Four days after the brutal terrorist attack by Hamas upon Israeli citizens
Pope Francis, in his strongest comments since the start of the conflict in Gaza, on Wednesday called for the release of all hostages taken by Hamas militants and said Israel has a right to defend itself.
Speaking in a somber voice at the end of his weekly general audience to thousands of people in St. Peter's Square, he also expressed grave concern over Israel's siege imposed on Gaza.
"I continue to follow, with pain and apprehension, what is happening in Israel and Palestine. So many people killed, and others wounded. I pray for those families who saw a feast day turn into a day of mourning, and I ask that the hostages be immediately released," he said.
Twenty-two days later, the pontiff again called for the release of the hostages held by Hamas when he
called for a cease-fire in the war between Israel and Hamas and renewed an appeal for the release of hostages held by the Palestinian militant group in Gaza.
"Let no-one abandon the possibility of stopping the weapons," he said at his weekly blessing in St. Peter's Square.
"Cease-fire," he said, mentioning a recent television appeal by Father Ibrahim Faltas, one of the Vatican's representatives in the Holy Land.
He then added in his own words: "We say 'cease-fire, cease-fire.' Brothers and sisters, stop! War is always a defeat, always."
Referring to "the grave situation in Palestine and Israel," he said "in Gaza, in particular, let there be room to guarantee humanitarian aid and may the hostages be freed immediately," he said, speaking about Israeli hostages seized by Hamas on Oct. 7.
So far, so good. However, the tide has turned; public sentiment has shifted dramatically toward Hamas, as- probably not coincidentally- has someone else's. On November 24, the Hindustan Times reported
The pope met with Jewish families whose relatives were kidnapped by Hamas, and Palestinians whose families were still in Gaza. He said to a crowd in St. Peter’s Square that he saw the suffering of both sides, saying, “This is what wars do. But here we have gone beyond wars. This is not war. This is terrorism.”
However, the Vatican denied that the pope used the word “genocide” to describe the situation, as some Palestinians who met with him claimed.
Actually, the Vatican did not deny it because as the news outlet itself noted, "Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said, 'I am not aware that he used such a word.'”
That's not a denial. A denial would be more like "The pontiff said no such thing" or "that report is inaccurate." Mr. Bruni seems to be admitting that he does not have first-hand knowledge and it's very possible that he had not been told what Pope Francis said. In fact, though a refusal to respond to the accusation would be less forthcoming, it would not as obviously suggested that the Pope had said such a thing.
A couple of pro-Israel organizations were displeased but rather diplomatic. The American Jewish Committee
said in a statement on X (Formerly Twitter) that it appreciated the pope’s meeting with the hostage families but added, “Later in the day, he described the Israel-Hamas war as ‘beyond war,’ as ‘terrorism.’ Hamas’ butchering and kidnapping of civilians is terrorism. Israel’s self-defense is not. Vatican, please clarify.”
The Council of the Assembly of Italian Rabbis seemed to accuse the pope of “publicly accusing both sides of terrorism.”
It said some “Church leaders” did not condemn the Hamas attack and said they were “putting the aggressor and the attacked on the same plane in the name of a supposed impartiality.”
On the same plane? If only. Pope Francis instead had stated "This is what wars do. But here we have gone beyond wars. This is not war. This is terrorism." He wasn't referring to terrorism by both sides; he was contending that Israel alone was committing terrorism.
But at this moment, it is Christmas Eve and it's time to be positive. Early in the war, while opponents of Hamas were largely merely expressing outrage over the brutal, homicidal attack, a US Representative from the Bronx took opponents of Israel head-on:
The notion that Israel is committing genocide or ethnic cleansing is a blood libel.— Ritchie Torres (@RitchieTorres) November 3, 2023
It is a dangerous lie intended to incite hatred for Israel as a Jewish State.
The kind of hatred that has driven extremists to celebrate, call for, or commit violence against Jews.
This was only about four weeks after the incident. However, Torres is still on-target and bold:
I had a simple message for the ‘Free Palestine’ protestors who heckled me at the 92nd Street Y.— Ritchie Torres (@RitchieTorres) December 22, 2023
We are going to Free Palestine—FROM HAMAS.
Hamas is the greatest oppressor of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.
You can either be pro-Palestinian or pro-Hamas but you… pic.twitter.com/ShQC8k8TAr
Merry Christmas to the brave Ritchie Torres. And may everyone who celebrates the holiday have a merry Christmas. That goes for believers as well as to atheists and agnostics, the latter evidently including a certain important figure in Vatican City.