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Pope Francis urges world leaders to heed sorrow of war victims

Pope Francis, during his General Audience on Wednesday, appealed for global leaders to be moved by the sorrow of war victims and actively pursue peace, especially in the Middle East and Ukraine. 

The pontiff expressed deep concern over ongoing conflicts, emphasizing the tragic impact on countless defenseless civilians. 

Reflecting on Italy’s National Day of Civilian War Victims, slated for February 1, Pope Francis stressed the importance of remembering those who have perished in wars.

“May [the victims’] cry of sorrow touch the hearts of those in charge of nations and lead to projects for peace,” he said.

“When you read stories of what’s happening in war today, there’s so much cruelty, so much. Let us ask the Lord for peace because He is always meek, never cruel,” he added. 

The pontiff reminded the faithful of the importance of truth as the foundation for peace, encouraging the pursuit of the common good, control of anger, and mutual forgiveness to build a civilization of love in the present situation.

At least 26,900 people have been killed and 65,949 wounded in Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7, 2023. The death toll in Israel from the October 7 Hamas attacks stands at 1,139.

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently criticized the collective punishment of Gaza’s population, emphasizing that even crimes attributed to Hamas during the October 7 raid on southern Israel did not justify punishing the entire Palestinian population. 

In a social media statement, Guterres stressed the importance of adhering to international law, stating that no party involved in an armed conflict was exempt from its provisions.

Guterres reiterated the obligation to follow the decisions of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). He emphasized the significance of upholding international humanitarian law, including principles such as distinction, proportionality, and precautions in attack. 

The ICJ, in a recent ruling, instructed Israel to take measures to prevent acts of genocide against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip. 

The court further mandated the preservation of evidence related to genocide in Gaza, the punishment of individuals in Israel inciting genocide publicly, and ensuring the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the population in Gaza.

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