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Amid Holy Week, Pope Francis points to ‘beautiful testimony’ of fathers who lost daughters

Pope Francis on Wednesday used the example of two men — one Palestinian, one Israeli, both of whom lost their daughters in violent conflicts — to reflect on Christ’s suffering and his patience as the Church prepares for Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Calling attention to the two men present at his general audience in the Paul VI Hall, the Holy Father told the assembly: “Both lost their daughters in this war and both are friends. They don’t look at the enmity of war, but they look at the friendship of two men who love each other and who went through the same crucifixion.”

“Let us think of this very beautiful testimony of these two people who suffered with their daughters from the war in the Holy Land. Dear brothers, thank you for your testimony.” 

Before the opening of the general audience, Pope Francis met briefly with the two fathers, exchanging embraces and several gifts. 

Rami Elhanan lost his 14-year-old daughter, Smadar, in 1997 when she was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber while out shopping with friends in the center of Jerusalem.

Bassam Aramin lost his 10-year-old daughter Abir in 2007. She was shot dead outside her school by a young Israeli soldier. 

Both men have dedicated themselves to working toward peace in the war-torn region through the Parents Circle Families Forum, an association of Israeli and Palestinian families who recount their process of bereavement and spearhead projects aimed at greater dialogue and peace initiatives. 

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“Brothers and sisters, let us pray for peace,” the pope said. “May there be peace in the Holy Land. May the Lord give peace to all, as a gift of his Easter”

The general audience, which was scheduled to take place in St. Peter’s Square, was moved to the Paul VI Audience Hall as central Italy headed into its second day of heavy rain. 

“Today the audience was scheduled in the square, but due to the rain it was moved inside. It’s true that you will be a little crowded, but at least we won’t be wet! Thank you for your patience,” the pope said.

Reflecting on the passion reading from Palm Sunday, the pope opened his remarks by noting that the suffering of Christ showcases his patience and love. 

“It is precisely in the Passion that Christ’s patience emerges, as with meekness and mildness he accepts being arrested, beaten, and condemned unjustly,” the pope said. “He does not recriminate before Pilate. He bears being insulted, spat upon, and flagellated by the soldiers. He carries the weight of the cross. He forgives those who nail him to the wood; and on the cross, he does not respond to provocations but rather offers mercy.”

“Patience,” the pope continued, “is not only a need but a calling: If Christ is patient, the Christian is called to be patient.” 

Responding to the question of how to grow in patience, Pope Francis implored the faithful to “broaden one’s outlook” and “to contemplate the Crucified One” as a way to cultivate greater patience with others, especially against the backdrop of Holy Week. 

“It starts by asking to look at them with compassion, with God’s gaze, knowing how to distinguish their faces from their faults.”

The pope ended by challenging the faithful to “go against the tide” of instant gratification and to instead cultivate this virtue in order to challenge “haste” and “impatience,” which “are the enemies of spiritual life.” 

“God is love, and those who love do not tire, they are not irascible, they do not give ultimatums but know how to wait.”

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