Pope Francis Pushes for Peace in Gaza, Ukraine, Calls for End to War

Pope Francis has called for an end to the wars in Ukraine and Gaza and urged leaders to negotiate. The statement is the latest from the Pontiff, who has repeatedly addressed the conflicts and used his Easter Sunday service to encourage a ceasefire in both. “Please. Countries at war, all of them, stop the war. Look to negotiate. Look for peace,” he said in his more recent interview.

Francis furthermore urged people worldwide to remember the children of Gaza and Ukraine, whom he said “don’t know how to smile.” He explained that the Vatican would host the first World Children’s Day this year, during which delegates will be asked to decide what kind of world they will leave to future generations.

The Pontiff described receiving updates from the Gaza Strip every evening amid warnings from the UN that the region is facing a potentially catastrophic famine.

On Easter Sunday, Pope Francis joined a growing chorus of world leaders placing pressure on the Jewish state to agree to a ceasefire in Gaza. Speaking at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican, Francis asked for humanitarian aid to be allowed to reach civilians and for the release of all Israeli hostages still held by Hamas.

Israel, however, has repeatedly rejected ceasefire calls and says it will finish the job of eliminating the designated terror group that killed more than 1,200 Israeli civilians last October. Egypt and Qatar brokered negotiations between the two sides, and attempts to find an agreement have so far been rejected.

In mid-April, Hamas reiterated that it would release the Israeli hostages on condition that Israel end the war and withdraw the “occupation army” from Gaza. Israel, however, remains unmoved in its determination to destroy Hamas as a political and military force.

The Islamist organization had earlier offered to return hostages if the Jewish state would stop fighting for four months. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the offer, called Hamas negotiators “delusional,” and restated Israel’s commitment to eliminate them.