· Vatican City ·

Relatives of Israeli hostages and of Palestinians from Gaza meet with Pope Francis

Rachel: I felt the Pope’s support and care

 Rachel: I felt the Pope’s  support and care  ING-047
24 November 2023

Before his General Audience on Wednesday morning, 22 November, Pope Francis met with 12 individuals whose family members are being held hostage by Hamas. Following that meeting, the group held a press conference, on the sidelines of which we spoke with Rachel Goldberg, the mother of Hersh, the 23-year-old who was taken hostage by Hamas last 7 October, while he attended the by now sadly well-known rave near the border with Gaza.

We had already met Rachel 10 days earlier in her home in Jerusalem, together with her husband and two daughters. On that occasion, Rachel spoke about Hersh and told us how she had learned that her son had been injured and kidnapped. She also addressed a video message to Pope Francis (which was published on Vatican News), thanking him for his repeated and heartfelt words calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the hostages.

On 22 November, Rachel was finally able to meet the Pope face to face. She says the meeting was short but very intense, and that the Holy Father listened to their stories with “compassion” and repeated to those present his wish that weapons will soon be silenced. “I really felt his empathy. I felt that he was with us in our pain. And I felt very lucky that we had that opportunity”, Goldberg said. She stated that the absurd and terrible situation that began on 7 October has produced too many innocent victims, including her son Hersh, but also many innocent Palestinian civilians. She added that although the group would have liked to have spent more time with the Pope, they were able to feel his support and love.

Goldberg said that the Pope is not only the spiritual leader of two billion Christians but also undisputedly a global moral authority, whose voice is also important in the Muslim world. She explained that he has the power to influence authority figures around the world so that they may realize that the current priority is obtaining the release of all hostages. Goldberg noted that if 50 hostages are released today, it is important to remember that 190 of them are still in the hands of their kidnappers. Thinking of her son, whose arm was injured during the 7 October attack, she said she hopes the Red Cross will soon be allowed to visit and aid the hostages. She also thanked the Vatican media for following their situation of suffering and said she hopes they will soon have the opportunity to interview her son when he is finally free.

By Roberto Cetera