In his Easter address on Sunday, Pope Francis called for peace in the Holy Land two days after 17 unarmed Palestinian protesters were killed by Israeli snipers at the Israeli-Gaza border.
Francis called for “reconciliation for the Holy Land, also experiencing in these days the wounds of ongoing conflict that do not spare the defenceless.”
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The pope made his comments in his “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message from the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica to tens of thousands of followers in the flower-bedecked square below where he earlier celebrated a Mass.
Israel’s defence minister has rejected calls for an inquiry into the killings by the military during a Palestinian demonstration that turned violent at the Gaza-Israel border.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, and other leaders have called for an independent investigation into the bloodshed.
Francis, celebrating his sixth Easter as Roman Catholic leader since his election in 2013, urged his listeners to work for an end to the “so many acts of injustice” in the world.
He prayed the power of Jesus’ message “bears fruits of hope and dignity where there are deprivation and exclusion, hunger and unemployment, where there are migrants and refugees – so often rejected by today’s culture of waste – and victims of the drug trade, human trafficking and contemporary forms of slavery”.
Earlier in the week, church authorities in Jerusalem had applied for around 600 permits for Gaza’s Christian worshipers to celebrate Easter in Jerusalem, but were issued none by Israel.