Pope Francis pleaded to all parties engaged in the Israel-Palestine conflict to lay down their weapons and make every effort to avert a “humanitarian catastrophe”.
“Lay down weapons and heed the cries for peace from the poor, the people, and the innocent children,” the pope said during his weekly General Audience on October 19.
The pontiff expressed deep apprehension about the potential expansion of the conflict, underscoring that the world is already grappling with numerous ongoing conflicts and wars.
He lamented the “growing” number of victims and the “desperate” situation in Gaza. “War solves no problems. It only sows death and destruction, increases hatred, multiplies revenge,” he said.
“War erases the future, it erases the future,” Pope Francis added.
The pope called upon all believers to stand firmly on the side of peace. He emphasized that this commitment should extend beyond mere words, urging that it should manifest in heartfelt prayers and unwavering dedication to the cause of peace.
He invited the faithful of all Christian denominations, as well as those from other religions and anyone who advocates for peace, to participate in a day of prayer, fasting, and penance for peace on Friday, October 27.
“I invite all the particular Churches to take part by organizing similar initiatives which involve the people of God,” he said.
Palestinians in Gaza are facing an increasingly dire situation since Israel halted the supply of essential resources, including food, electricity, water, and fuel on October 7.
Concerns are mounting over the risk of people in Gaza succumbing to dehydration as the availability of clean drinking water dwindles in the besieged territory, home to 2.3 million people.
Health experts are also bracing for potential outbreaks of waterborne diseases such as cholera and dysentery.
Doctors Without Borders has issued a dire warning, noting that severely wounded individuals in Gaza’s overwhelmed hospitals are at a heightened risk of losing their lives due to the collapsing medical system.
The situation remains critical, with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reporting that approximately 3,000 tonnes of crucial humanitarian aid are awaiting entry into Gaza from Egypt.
However, it remains uncertain when this vital assistance will be permitted to reach those in need.
OCHA’s estimates are equally concerning, revealing that around one million people have been internally displaced, with approximately 352,000 individuals taking refuge in UNRWA schools located in central and southern Gaza.