· Vatican City ·

Stop the carnage

16 February 2024

Immediately after the massacre perpetrated by Hamas terrorists on 7 October 2023, against peaceful Israeli families, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin described it as “inhuman”. He emphasized the priority of freeing hostages and also spoke about Israel’s right to self-defence, while indicating the necessary parameter of proportionality.

Dialoguing with journalists on Tuesday, 13 February, at the end of an event with Italian authorities, Parolin used unambiguous words about what is happening in Gaza. He repeated the “clear and unequivocal condemnation of all forms of anti-Semitism”; at the same time, he reiterated the “request that Israel’s right to self-defence, which has been invoked to justify this operation, be proportional, and certainly, with 30,000 deaths, it is not”. The Cardinal added, “I believe we are all outraged by what is happening, by this carnage, but we must have the courage to move forward and not lose hope”. His invitation is not to succumb to discouragement, to the alleged inevitability of a spiral of violence that can never bring peace but risks generating new hatred.

In an interview with Italian newspaper, “Il Fatto Quotidiano”, writer and poet Edith Bruck — who was captured in the Hungarian ghetto of Sátoraljaújhely and deported to Auschwitz at the age of 13 — expressed similar positions. She directed severe criticism at the current Israeli Prime Minister, stating that “he has harmed the Jews of the diaspora because he has reignited anti-Semitism, which has never disappeared and has now increased”. Bruck also expressed her belief that terrorists will never be eliminated with this policy.

The words of both the Cardinal and the Jewish poet stem from a realistic view of the ongoing tragedy. The Holy See is always on the side of the victims: of the Israelis massacred in their homes in the kibbutz as they were about to celebrate the feast of Simchat Torah; of the hostages torn from their families; and of the innocent civilians — one-third of whom are children — killed by bombings in Gaza. No one can describe what is happening in the Strip as “collateral damage” in the fight against terrorism. The right to self-defence, Israel’s right to bring the perpetrators of the October massacre to justice, cannot justify this carnage.

At the Angelus on 17 December, after the killing of two Christian women who had sought refuge in the Gaza parish, Pope Francis had said, “Unarmed civilians are targets for bombs and shootings... Some say: “this is terrorism and war”. Yes, it is war, it is terrorism. This is why Scripture says that “God makes wars cease... he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear” (cf. Ps 46:9). Let us pray to the Lord for peace”. At the beginning of Lent, as the macabre toll of innocent victims increases, this call becomes even more urgent, a call for weapons to be silenced before it is too late for our world which is on the brink of the abyss.

By Andrea Tornielli