Pope does not put everyone on the same level – Zuppi

Pope Francis does not put Israel and Hamas on the same level and on the October 7 attacks his position is clear, the President of the Italian Bishops’ Conference Cardinal Matteo Zuppi said on Thursday.

“The Pope is careful and look, this does not mean putting everyone on the same level,” said Zuppi after Francis sparked criticism on Wednesday for allegedly equating Israel and Hamas in remarks made during the general audience after meeting with delegations of Israelis and Palestinians at the Vatican.

“October 7th was a tragedy, full stop. It was a tragedy.

Hence the attention, the condemnation,” added the prelate.

“Then there is what is happening in Gaza,” he continued.

“Why is the Pope calling for a ceasefire? Because there is terrible suffering, and looking ahead it seems to me that he is pushing for another solution so that terrorism might truly be fought, by removing everything that can paradoxically in some way justify it,” said Zuppi.

“October 7, full stop. This is the Pope’s position and it is not that he does not understand the motivations of the Israeli government,” he concluded.

On Wednesday Francis said during the general audience after meeting with a group of Israelis with relatives who were taken hostage by Hamas during the October 7 attacks and of Palestinians with family members living in Gaza that he had “heard how they both suffer”.

“They suffer so much. Wars do this, but here we have gone beyond war: this is not war, it is terrorism,” he said.

Members of the Israeli delegation were quick to react, insisting that there can be “no equivalence between Hamas, which is a terrorist organisation and uses civilians as shields, and Israel, which defends civilians”.

Noemi Di Segni, the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, also had words of criticism for Francis.

“The Pope puts everyone on the same level in terms of the starting and finishing points,” Di Segni told ANSA.

“But the starting point is the terrorism that is used to execute a plan to exterminate Jews throughout the world, while the war is necessary for the defence of Israel and its people.

“It involves suffering, but the victims must be associated with who is truly to blame,” she said