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Pope Welcomes Mideast Truce, Hostage Releases


Pope Francis on Sunday welcomed a truce that has seen some hostages set free in the Middle East and prayed for further releases.

“Today we thank God because there is finally a truce between Israel and Palestine and some hostages have been freed,” the Argentinian pontiff said in a statement read by a Vatican official at the weekly Angelus prayer.

“We pray that they all may be (freed) as rapidly as possible and that more humanitarian aid arrives in Gaza and that they insist on dialogue,” the 86-year-old leader of the Catholic Church added in response to the release Friday and Saturday by Hamas to the Red Cross of 41 Israeli and non-Israeli hostages detained seven weeks ago, while Israel freed 78 Palestinian prisoners.

Dialogue “is the only way, the only path to peace. Those who do not want to hold a dialogue do not want peace,” Francis concluded.

The truce, a four-day pause to fighting brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States, provides for Hamas releasing 50 hostages in exchange for the release by Israel of 150 Palestinian prisoners.

READ ALSO: Qatar Says 39 Palestinians To Be Released From Israeli Prisons today

Hamas took about 240 captives from southern Israel in an unprecedented October 7 attack that Israeli officials say killed around 1,200 people, most of them civilians.

In response, Israel has vowed to eliminate Hamas, which the United States, the European Union and Israel dub a terrorist organisation. It unleashed an aerial bombing campaign and ground invasion of Gaza that the Hamas government says has killed nearly 15,000 people, also mostly civilians and some 6,000 minors.

Francis had a colleague read his statement as he recited recite Sunday’s Angelus prayer from his Casa Santa Marta residence rather than overlooking St Peter’s Square as he deals with a mild bout of flu, the Vatican press service said.

The prayer was broadcast live on screens in St Peter’s Square and streamed on the Vatican News website.

The pope was recuperating a day after he had a CT scan which ruled out pulmonary complications and cancelled audiences for the day as the Vatican said he was getting over a “light flu”.

Francis is scheduled to make a much anticipated speech at the UN climate summit in Dubai next Saturday. He is expected to criticise the inaction of many governments and urge them to intensify efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


Emmanuel Egobiambu

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