Vatican News—Jerusalem—Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, expresses his willingness to exchange himself for the kidnapped children held by Hamas and discusses the Holy See’s mediation efforts with regards to the ongoing conflict in Gaza and the Holy Land.
“Anything” for their freedom and to have “those children back home”
In a poignant online meeting with a gathering of journalists, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, conveyed a heartfelt commitment to freedom and concern for the release of children held hostage by Hamas.
“I am willing to give anything in exchange for freedom and to have those children back home,” Cardinal Pizzaballa said. “No worries. On my part, absolute willingness.”
“The first step is to try to secure the release of the hostages; otherwise, there will be no stopping (an escalation).” “We are willing to assist, including myself,” he added.
Holy See’s offer of mediation
Cardinal Pizzaballa further touched upon the Holy See’s offer of mediation, emphasizing the desire to rescue the captives.
He noted, “We have offered our readiness at least to try to bring the hostages back, at least some of them, this is being attempted. It is very difficult because, for mediation, you need to have interlocutors. And at this moment, it’s not possible to talk to Hamas.”
The Cardinal’s two-fold concern for Gaza Strip
Turning his attention to the possibility of an Israeli ground invasion in the Gaza Strip, Cardinal Pizzaballa revealed a twofold concern.
“My concerns are essentially twofold: the first is, following the ground operation, I don’t know what it’s called, the much more severe humanitarian crisis that will be created. This is the first fear, as there will undoubtedly be many victims.”
Then, he shared, “the other fear,” which is “that this conflict becomes a regional conflict, involving not only Gaza or possibly the West Bank but also Lebanon, then the Islamic world could ignite, all the Arab countries: I don’t know, it’s very difficult to predict the developments, but the fear of regional expansion is real, and I’m not the only one saying it.”
Cardinal Pizzaballa oversees Roman Catholic activity in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, and Cyprus, a territory with an estimated 300,000 Roman Catholics.
According to Kenyan news outlet Waza, as Israel prepares a ground attack to crush Hamas, diplomatic efforts to get aid into Gaza have increased.
According to Gaza authorities, at least 2,750 people have been killed, and almost 10,000 have been injured due to Israeli strikes. Another 1,000 persons were reported missing and presumed to be buried beneath the rubble.
According to Pizzaballa, more than 1,000 Christians (some reports say “more than 500”) took refuge in Church structures in northern Gaza after their homes were devastated by Israeli bombings.
“They don’t know where to go because moving is dangerous,” he said.
Israel has urged fatigued Gaza residents to flee to the south, which hundreds of thousands have already done in the enclave of over 2 million people. Hamas, which governs Gaza, has advised residents to disregard Israel’s warning.
- Learn more about the early life and education of Pierbattista Pizzaballa, now Cardinal and Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem
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