Pope Francis has condemned the ongoing violence between Israel and Hamas at a special Sunday service in the Vatican.
During the service, known as the Regina Coeli (“Queen of Heaven’), the supreme pontiff called for an immediate dialogue between the two sides.
Since last Monday Israel and the Palestinian Territories have been racked by the worst violence in years, with forced evictions of Palestinians from East Jerusalem prompting a barrage of rocket fire from Hamas, with Israel responding in kind with air strikes and artillery fire. At least 188 Palestinians and eight Israelis have been killed.
“I’m following with great concern what is happening in the Holy Land,” the Pope said on Sunday. “Many people have been injured and many innocent people have died. Among them there are also many children.
“I ask myself: this hatred and vendetta, what will it bring? Do we truly think that we can build peace by destroying the other?”
It came as dozens of people were killed in airstrikes on Gaza over the weekend, which saw residential buildings and an office building used by the media reduced to rubble. The Israeli military said it had destroyed the home of Gaza’s top Hamas leader on Sunday.
Prayers for Myanmar
Inside St Peter’s Basilica Pope Francis also led a special mass for Catholics from Myanmar. Several hundred people, many of them students and nuns, joined the Pope for the service, which followed his earlier appeal for an end to bloody conflict.
In February Myanmar’s military ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The coup triggered widespread pro-democracy protests that were violently repressed by the military, leading to more than 700 deaths.
Pope Francis, visited Myanmar in 2017 and has repeatedly denounced the coup. The people of Myanmar, he said on Sunday, should not despair or become divided.
“Do not lose hope,” he said. “Even today, Jesus is interceding before the Father for all of us, praying that he keep us from the evil one and set us free from evil’s power.”