Pope marks six-month anniversary of Hamas attacks by meeting with relatives of hostages

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis met Monday with relatives of hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7, marking the six-month anniversary of the attack in southern Israel with an hour-long audience.

The Vatican released photos of the encounter, showing relatives of several of the hostages sitting in a semicircle in front of Francis in his private library in the Apostolic Palace. Each one held a poster with a photo and the name of a loved one.

Vatican-Israel-Palestinians

Pope Francis meets with relatives of Israeli hostages being held by Hamas, at the Vatican, Monday, April 8, 2024. Israel sent troops to Khan Younis in December, part of its blistering ground offensive that came in response to a Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7 into southern Israel. Israeli authorities say 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed and roughly 250 people taken hostage.  (Vatican Media via AP)

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It was the second time Francis has met with relatives of the hostages. On Nov. 22, he met with a delegation of Israelis, and then separately a delegation of Palestinians whose relatives had been harmed during the long Mideast conflict.

Francis has called for the immediate release of the hostages and a cease-fire in Gaza, and for humanitarian aid to urgently reach desperate Palestinians.

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Ashley Waxman Bakshi, relative of hostages Agah and Li-Yah Berger, said the audience was “very powerful” for the families.

“He was very clear about his solidarity for the release of the hostages,” Waxman Bakshi told reporters afterward.

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