Expressing his sorrow for those who have lost their lives, Pope Francis Wednesday called for peace and dialogue in the Middle East, which has faced increased violence during the transfer of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“I am very worried and distressed by the escalation of tensions in the Holy Land and in the Middle East, and by the spiral of violence that is increasingly moving away from the path of peace, dialogue and negotiations,” the pope said May 16.
Speaking at the end of the general audience, Francis expressed his sorrow for the dead and wounded, saying he is “close with prayer and affection to all those who suffer” and repeating that violence does not lead to peace.
“War calls war, violence calls violence,” he said. “God have mercy on us!”
Deadly protests along the Israel and Gaza border over the last seven weeks escalated Monday after Israeli troops opened fire on protesting Palestinians, resulting in 58 dead and another 2,700 injured, most from sniper-fire, according to the ministry of health.
Eight children under the age of 16, including an eight-month-old baby, were among Monday’s dead.
The conflict coincided with the United States’ inauguration of its first embassy in Jerusalem, a controversial move, which Palestinians have taken as US-backing of Israeli control of the city.
Pope Francis Wednesday invited “all the parties involved and the international community to renew their commitment so that dialogue, justice and peace prevail.” He also led Catholics in praying a Hail Mary to ask for the intercession of Mary, Queen of Peace.