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On Nov. 22, Pope Francis met relatives of Hamas hostages and, separately, relatives of Palestinians detained in Israel. In response, the Council of the Congress of Rabbis of Italy criticized Francis in a statement: “Yesterday, the Pope’s meeting with relatives of hostages kidnapped by Hamas, long requested and always postponed, was finally possible because it was followed by a meeting with relatives of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel, as reported by the Pope, putting on the same level innocent people torn from their families with people detained often for very serious acts of terrorism.”

However, according to the Nov. 22 Vatican press office bulletin, the succession was the other way around. First there was a meeting with “family members of Israeli hostages in the Gaza conflict” and later with “family members of Palestinians from Gaza.” Thus there is no mention of “relatives of Palestinian prisoners,” as the rabbis claim.

The Rabbis of Italy also reacted to the Pope’s characterization of the Israelis’ actions in Gaza as “terrorism.” During the meetings, Francis had said that the conflict must stop because “we have gone too far. This is no longer war, it is terrorism.”

“The Pope has publicly accused both sides of terrorism,” the rabbis assert. “These stances at the highest level follow problematic statements by illustrious Church leaders in which either there is no trace of a condemnation of Hamas aggression or, in the name of a supposed impartiality, they put the aggressor and the aggressed on the same level. We wonder what use has been made of decades of Jewish-Christian dialogue by talking about friendship and brotherhood if then, in reality, when there are those who try to exterminate Jews, instead of receiving expressions of closeness and understanding, the response is that of diplomatic acrobatics, balancing acts and icy equidistance that is certainly distance but not fair.”

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