Pope calls for hostages’ release, ceasefire in Easter address

The pontiff also called for additional humanitarian aid into Gaza


Pope Francis waves from the central loggia of St. Peter's basilica during the Easter 'Urbi et Orbi' message and blessing to the City and the World as part of the Holy Week celebrations, in the Vatican on March 31, 2024. (Photo by TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty Images)

Pope Francis on Sunday called for the release of all remaining Hamas hostages from the Gaza Strip as well as an immediate ceasefire in the war against the terrorist group.

"I appeal once again that access to humanitarian aid is ensured to Gaza, and call once more for the prompt release of the hostages seized on October 7 and for an immediate ceasefire in the Strip," Agence France-Presse quoted the pontiff as saying in his Easter message at the Vatican.

Last month, Francis decried the “terrible increase in attacks against Jews around the world” since Hamas invaded Israel on October 7.

He wrote that divisive public debates and attitudes surrounding the war between Israel and Hamas terrorists in Gaza have at times veered into antisemitism.

“[The Church] rejects every form of anti-Judaism and antisemitism, unequivocally condemning manifestations of hatred towards Jews and Judaism as a sin against God,” he wrote.

“We had hoped that ‘Never again’ would be a refrain heard by the new generations, yet now we see that the path ahead requires ever closer collaboration to eradicate these phenomena,” he said.

Francis drew criticism for previous remarks during the war, including on Christmas Day, in which he condemned Israel’s “appalling harvest” of civilian victims in the Gaza Strip.

“I plead for an end to the military operations with their appalling harvest of innocent civilian victims, and call for a solution to the desperate humanitarian situation by an opening to the provision of humanitarian aid,” he said from St. Peter’s Basilica to a crowd of thousands in the square below.

Francis has also appeared to accuse Israel of terrorism.

It’s “forbidden to respond to terror with terror,” the pontiff reportedly told Israeli President Isaac Herzog in November. On December 17, the pope said, “Some say, ‘This is terrorism and war.’ Yes, it is war. It is terrorism.”

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