Fighting in Holy Land, bombing in Philippines prompt papal prayers

Pope Francis gives his blessing after praying the Angelus from his Vatican residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, Dec. 3, 2023. In a text read by an aide, Pope Francis appealed for a renewed cease-fire between Israel and Hamas and prayed for the victims of a bombing at a Catholic Mass in the Philippines. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The end of the temporary cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas "means death, destruction, misery," Pope Francis said.

After reciting the Angelus prayer Dec. 3 from his Vatican residence, Pope Francis had an aide read his remarks expressing sadness over the resumption of fighting in the Holy Land Dec. 1 after a weeklong truce.

"Many hostages have been freed, but many are still in Gaza" in the hands of Hamas, the pope's text said. "Let's think about them, their families who had seen a light, a hope to embrace their loved ones again."

Israel and Hamas had agreed on the temporary cease-fire to allow Hamas to release hostages captured in Israel Oct. 7 in exchange for the release of Palestinians jailed in Israel. The agreement also allowed aid agencies to deliver needed food, water, medicine and fuel to Gaza.

"In Gaza there is much suffering; there is a lack of basic necessities," the papal text said. "I hope that all those who are involved may reach a new cease-fire agreement as soon as possible and find solutions other than weapons, trying to take courageous paths to peace."

Pope Francis also used his midday Angelus remarks to pray for the victims of a bombing at a Catholic Mass held earlier Dec. 3 in a gym at Mindanao State University in Marawi, Philippines. Five people died and 50 were injured.

"I am close to the families and the people of Mindanao, who have already suffered so much," the pope's message said.

Later the Vatican released the text of a telegram sent in the pope's name to Bishop Edwin de la Peña y Angot, head of the prelature of Marawi.

Signed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, the telegram said Pope Francis was "deeply saddened to be informed of the injuries and loss of life caused by the bombing that took place during the celebration of the holy Mass at Mindanao State University."

Assuring his spiritual closeness to all those affected by the tragedy, the pope joined the bishop "in commending the souls of those who died to almighty God's loving mercy, and he implores the divine gifts of healing and consolation upon the injured and bereaved."

"With prayers that Christ, the prince of peace, will grant to all the strength to turn from violence and overcome every evil with good, His Holiness cordially imparts his blessing as a pledge of strength and consolation in the Lord," the message said.


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