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VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis will meet next week with relatives of Israeli hostages held by Hamas militants in Gaza, a source said on Friday, November 17.
The source, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss papal plans, said 12 relatives would meet the Pope early on Wednesday morning before his weekly general audience.
The source said they would be a mix of relatives who met with Italian leaders last month and others who were not among the first group.
The Vatican’s number two, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said on Friday the Holy See believed the release of the hostages and a ceasefire – which Israel has so far ruled out – were two “fundamental points” to resolve the crisis.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Rome, Parolin said the Vatican was working on a meeting between the Pope and relatives of the hostages but gave no time frame.
“We are working on it and hope to realize it as soon as possible,” he said.
“The release of the hostages is one of the fundamental points for the solution of the current situation, taking into consideration the humanitarian aspects of those who are being held – men, women, children, newborns, pregnant women,” said Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State.
About 240 hostages were taken by Hamas gunmen when they stormed into southern Israel on October 7.
Francis has made numerous appeals for their release and for a ceasefire.
“The other (fundamental point) is a ceasefire, taking into consideration the humanitarian aspects that come with it – the arrival of aid, curing the injured and other aspects,” Parolin said.
UN aid deliveries to Gaza were suspended again on Friday due to shortages of fuel and a communications shutdown, deepening the misery of thousands of hungry and homeless Palestinians as Israeli troops battled Hamas militants in the enclave. – Rappler.com