As part of a humanitarian delegation, Pope Francis met with the relatives of Israelis taken captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday.
The relatives of Lt. Hadar Goldin and Lt. Oron Shaul, whose remains are being kept by the terror group in charge of Gaza, as well as Israeli citizens Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who Hamas has forcibly detained in the Gaza Strip for several years, were also invited to the meeting.
Hamas has had Goldin and Shaul’s bodies since they died in “Operation Protective Edge,” Israel’s fight with Hamas in the summer of 2014. They were reportedly seized alive, according to the terrorist group.
The pope stated that wiping away a mother’s tears is tough.
Raphael Schutz, ambassador to the Vatican, and Shuli Davidovich, director of the Foreign Ministry’s division of Diaspora and Religious Affairs, accompanied the Israeli delegation.
The team spoke with Francis for 45 minutes and requested his help returning their family members.
The head of Hamas in Gaza stated last week that there was no longer time for Israel to arrange a prisoner exchange and that “another way will be found.”
Yahya Sinwar said that unless a deal was struck quickly over the two deceased soldiers and the two mentally ill citizens during a rally to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the founding of Hamas.
During the rally, a masked member of the “Shadow Unit” of the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas, which keeps hostages and opponents’ bodies slain in combat, presented what was allegedly Goldin’s rifle.
According to Jerusalem officials, the display of Goldin’s alleged weapon was psychological warfare intended to put pressure on Israel’s next administration.
As a result of Israel’s refusal to release Palestinian terrorists who have “blood on their hands” or have been killed, prisoner exchange negotiations have stalled.
Their families spearheaded an effort to bring the bodies of Goldin’s and Shaul’s sons home.
The Goldin family organized a march to the Gaza border in August, urging the Israeli government to secure the release of the bodies of Mengistu and al-Sayed in addition to their sons’ bodies.
1/3 Earlier this morning, the family of Israelis being held captive by terror organization Hamas in the Gaza Strip met with His Holiness Pope Francis at the Vatican as a part of a humanitarian delegation. pic.twitter.com/jXudjs0P62
— Israel Foreign Ministry (@IsraelMFA) December 21, 2022