The Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem has volunteered to take the place of hostages taken by Hamas.
During an Oct. 16 press conference, reporters asked Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa if he would be willing to exchange himself for hostages. The cardinal said he would do anything to “bring those children home.”
“Am I ready for an exchange? Anything, if that can lead to freedom and bring those children home, no problem,” said Pizzaballa. “There is an absolute availability on my part.”
He stressed that it was vital to “find a way to get the hostages back.”
“The first thing to do is to try to win the release of the hostages, otherwise there will be no way of stopping (an escalation). We are willing to help, even me personally,” said Pizzaballa.
Pizzaballa leads Roman Catholic activities in both Israel and Palestine in addition to Jordan and Cyprus. His jurisdiction is home to roughly 300,000 Catholics. His office has not yet made contact with Hamas, according to Fox11.
An estimated 200 people have been taken hostage by Hamas in the last week. At least a dozen is believed to be children. Pizzaballa told reporters about 1,000 Catholics are taking shelter in a church in Gaza after their homes were destroyed during Israeli airstrikes.
“Authorities in Gaza said at least 2,750 people had so far been killed by the Israeli strikes, a quarter of them children, and nearly 10,000 wounded. Another 1,000 people were missing and believed to be under rubble,” reports Reuters. “Israel has urged exhausted Gazans to evacuate to the south, which hundreds of thousands have already done in the enclave that is home to more than 2 million people. Hamas, which runs Gaza, has told people to ignore Israel’s message.”
The Vatican condemned Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks on Israel and has volunteered to mediate any peace talks.
Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin said in an interview with Vatican News that he is concerned for the civilians impacted by the conflict and that peace can only be achieved through a two-state solution.
“We are concerned for the men, women, children, and the elderly held hostage in Gaza,” said Parolin. “We express our solidarity with the affected families, the vast majority of whom are Jewish, and we pray for them, for those still in shock, for the wounded.”
“I do not know how much room for dialogue there can be between Israel and the Hamas militia, but if there is—and we hope there is—it should be pursued immediately and without delay,” he continued. “This is to avoid further bloodshed, as is happening in Gaza, where many innocent civilian victims have been caused by the Israeli army’s attacks.”
“It seems to me that the greatest possible justice in the Holy Land is the two-state solution, which would allow Palestinians and Israelis to live side by side in peace and security, meeting the aspirations of the majority,” Parolin added. “This solution, which is supported by the international community, has recently seemed to some, on both sides, to be no longer feasible. For others, it never was.”
Like Pizzaballa, Parolin called for the immediate return of any hostages taken by Hamas and for humanitarian law to be “fully respected.”