Pope: Israelis, Palestinians face Christmas ‘of pain and mourning’

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Israelis and Palestinians face “pain and mourning” over the Christmas period as the war in the Gaza Strip rages on, Pope Francis said on Tuesday, calling for prayers and “tangible aid” for the devastated enclave.

“For the inhabitants of the Holy Land, a #Christmas of pain and mourning looms. We do not want to leave them alone. May we stand by them in prayer and tangible aid…” Francis wrote on social media platform X.

Israel’s campaign to eradicate Hamas militants behind an Oct. 7 incursion and massacre of 1,200 people has left Gaza in ruins, brought widespread hunger and homelessness, and killed nearly 20,000 Gazans, the enclave’s health ministry says.

Francis has called several times for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and for the release of all hostages taken by Hamas.

On Sunday, he suggested Israel was using “terrorism” tactics in the Palestinian enclave, deploring the reported killing by the Israeli military of two Christian women who had taken refuge in a Catholic church complex.

(Reporting by Francesca Piscioneri, editing by Alvise Armellini and Mark Heinrich)