Pope to meet family members of Israeli hostages and Palestinians

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Pope Francis will meet next week a group of relatives of Israelis held hostage by Hamas and another of relatives of Palestinians in Gaza, the Vatican said Friday.

The 86-year-old pontiff wants to demonstrate his “spiritual closeness” during the two meetings, which will take place on the margins of his weekly audience at the Vatican, spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement.

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“On the morning of Wednesday, November 22, on the sidelines of the general audience, Pope Francis will meet at separate times with a group of relatives of Israelis held hostage in Gaza and a group of relatives of Palestinians suffering from the conflict in Gaza,” he said.

“With these meetings of exclusively humanitarian nature, Pope Francis wants to demonstrate his spiritual closeness to the suffering of each one.”

Bruni cited the pontiff’s comments last Sunday that “Every human being, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, of any people or religion, every human being is sacred, is precious in the eyes of God and has the right to live in peace.”

The Palestinian militant group Hamas took about 240 people hostage when it attacked Israel on October 7, breaking through Gaza’s militarized border to kill about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli officials.

Israel has vowed to “crush” Hamas in response, and its air and ground campaign has killed 12,000 people, including 5,000 children, according to Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007.

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