By Justin McLellan, Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Rather than foment hate and seek revenge, Palestinians and Israelis need to engage in dialogue in the pursuit of peace, Pope Francis said.
After praying the Angelus with an estimated 20,000 visitors in St. Peter’s Square Feb. 26, the pope prayed in a special way for those in the Holy Land to “find the way of brotherhood and peace with the aid of the international community.”
Israeli and Palestinian authorities published a joint statement to that end Feb. 26 after a meeting in Aqaba, Jordan, that brought together the security chiefs of both countries for the first time in several years, along with senior U.S., Egyptian and Jordanian officials.
In the statement, both sides reaffirmed the need for “de-escalation on the ground” to prevent further violence and Israel committed to suspend Israeli settlement in the West Bank for a period of four months — a major source of tension for Palestinians who want to establish an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“How to stop this spiral of violence?” the pope asked Feb. 26. “I renew my call for dialogue to prevail over hate and revenge.”
At least 62 Palestinians and 12 Israelis have been killed this year according to reports by the Palestinian Authority and Israeli foreign ministries, outpacing violence in the Holy Land last year which was the bloodiest on record.
Pope Francis also expressed his concern over recent terrorist attacks in Burkina Faso, where Islamic extremists took responsibility for killing more than 70 soldiers and taking five hostages in an attack on a military convoy Feb. 24.
On the first Sunday of Lent, the pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading from St. Matthew in which the devil tests Jesus in the wilderness. He explained that Jesus does not succumb to the devil’s efforts to tempt him and instead responds with the word of God.
“You do not argue with the devil,” said the pope, “you do not dialogue with the devil.”
He urged Christians to keep Scripture at the center of their lives, so that they may turn to it in moments of temptation as Jesus did.