By Tina Dennelly
Pope Francis and U.S. President Joe Biden spoke by phone on Sunday afternoon to discuss “the latest developments in Israel and Gaza,” according to a statement from the White House.
The Holy See Press Office said earlier the phone call lasted about 20 minutes and focused on “conflict situations in the world and the need to identify paths to peace.”
“The president condemned the barbarous attack by Hamas against Israeli civilians and affirmed the need to protect civilians in Gaza,“ the White House statement said. The two also talked about Biden’s trip to Israel last week and his efforts at humanitarian assistance in the region.
The pope and the president also discussed “the need to prevent escalation in the region and to work toward a durable peace in the Middle East,“ the White House said.
Earlier in the day, Pope Francis in his Sunday Angelus appealed for peace in the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, which is entering its third week.
“Once again my thoughts turn to what is happening in Israel and Palestine. I am very worried, saddened; I pray and I am close to all those who suffer, the hostages, the injured, the victims, and their families,” the pope said.
The pope also remembered those who continue to suffer in Ukraine.
“War, every war in the world — I am also thinking of the tormented Ukraine — is a defeat,” Francis said. “War is always a defeat, it is a destruction of human brotherhood. Brothers, stop! Stop!”
Biden visited Israel briefly on Wednesday, Oct. 18, to engage in high-level talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to show support for the war-torn Jewish state. The president also called for aid for the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, where about a million have been displaced since the start of the conflict.
Biden told reporters on the way back from his trip to Israel that in a phone call with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the leader agreed to allow 20 trucks carrying humanitarian aid into Gaza from the restricted Rafah crossing, which connects Egypt and Gaza. Biden also announced $100 million in humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people in both Gaza and the West Bank.