Vatican City, Jan 8, 2023 / 03:00 am
When, during his Christmas Urbi et Orbi message, Pope Francis once again launched the appeal for peace in the Holy Land, he probably had in his eyes the testimonies of four Israeli families who have been fighting to see their children for eight and a half years.
Two young men are still alive, kidnapped by Hamas. Two others died, but their bodies were not returned, thus preventing a proper burial, one of the Jewish mitzvahs. Three are Jews, and one is Muslim.
Pope Francis met these four families on the sidelines of the pope’s general audience on Dec. 21. The pope listened to one family for 45 minutes, a much longer meeting than expected, and never stopped holding their hands, a mother whose son, Oron Shaul, has now been in the hands of Hamas for eight and a half years.
“It is so difficult to console a mother’s tears,” Pope Francis said of the encounter. The pope promised to take care of the cases to bring these four young men home, also asking for the details of the four cases in writing. The pope also reminded his guests that, on the occasion of Christmas, he had written a letter to the heads of state of the world asking them for “a gesture of clemency towards those brothers and sisters of ours deprived of their freedom” if they are deemed fit to get it.