‘Please Let No More Innocent Blood Be Shed’

In his Angelus prayer on Oct. 15, Pope Francis said of the heinous acts in the Holy Land, “Prayer is the meek and holy force to oppose the diabolical force of hatred, terrorism, and war.” 

Pope Francis has repeatedly and justly called on Hamas to release the more than 100 hostages, including children, they have claimed to be holding since their assault on Israel Oct. 7. 

He went on to say that “already many have died. Please, let no more innocent blood be shed, neither in the Holy Land nor in Ukraine, nor in any other place! Enough! Wars are always a defeat, always!” 

The use of exclamation points in the statement emphasizes how the Holy Father decries senseless killing in the name of national pride. 

His Eminence, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who was elevated to the College of Cardinals last month by Pope Francis, is a rather interesting man. A Franciscan friar, Cardinal Pizzaballa was trained in biblical studies and is fluent in English, Hebrew, and, of course, Italian. 

Cardinal Pizzaballa was appointed the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, making him the shepherd of all the Roman Catholics in Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and Cyprus. 

In fact, thanks to a special arrangement, each year some seminarians from the Latin Patriarchy of Jerusalem are sent to study at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, where our seminarians of the Diocese of Brooklyn study. The cardinal has visited the seminary a few times when he was in the United States and knows well the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Archdiocese of New York. 

In light of the horrific slayings and kidnappings of Israeli children by Hamas, the cardinal has offered to do something extraordinary. He has asked Hamas to release the children in exchange for himself as a hostage. 

He stated: “I am ready for an exchange, anything, if this can lead to freedom, to bring the children home. No problem. There is total willingness on my part,” and “The first thing to do is to try to win the release of the hostages, otherwise there will be no way of stopping [an escalation]. We are willing to help, even me personally.” 

While acknowledging that he has had no direct contact with Hamas, Cardinal Pizzaballa is not making an empty gesture. He is deadly serious and is willing to lay down his life in exchange for these innocent children. Whether or not Hamas takes him up on his offer, it is a heroic, even saintly gesture. 

There are no easy answers in this war which has broken out again between the nation of Israel and the Palenstinians in Gaza. 

Amidst all of the atrocities we are witnessing in the Holy Land, perhaps we can also recall that there are living saints who are there, men like Cardinal Pizzaballa, who are trying to witness to the goodness of God and the dignity of the human person.