Pope hails Mideast ceasefire, urges global prayers for peace

A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist movement which controls the Gaza Strip, appeared to hold on Friday after 11 days of deadly fighting that pounded the Palestinian enclave and forced countless Israelis to seek shelter from rockets.

FILE: Pope Francis. Picture: AFP

VATICAN CITY, Holy See - Pope Francis on Friday hailed the Israel-Palestinian ceasefire and urged the entire Catholic Church to pray for peace.

"I thank God for the decision to halt the armed conflicts and acts of violence, and I pray for the pursuit of paths of dialogue and peace," he told ambassadors to the Holy See.

"Tomorrow evening, the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, together with their faithful, will gather to celebrate the Vigil of Pentecost in Saint Stephen’s Church in Jerusalem and to implore the gift of peace.

"I take this occasion to ask all the pastors and faithful of the Catholic Church to unite themselves spiritually with this prayer.

"May every community pray to the Holy Spirit 'that Israelis and Palestinians may find the path of dialogue and forgiveness, be patient builders of peace and justice, and be open, step by step, to a common hope, to coexistence among brothers and sisters'."

A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist movement which controls the Gaza Strip, appeared to hold on Friday after 11 days of deadly fighting that pounded the Palestinian enclave and forced countless Israelis to seek shelter from rockets.

The truce brokered by Egypt, that also included Gaza's second-most powerful armed group, Islamic Jihad, was agreed following mounting international pressure to stem the bloodshed which erupted on May 10.

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