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Pope expresses ‘deep shock’ over Ukraine, Gaza attacks

Russian and Israeli militaries come under fire for targeting medical facilities and schools
A girl from a volunteer group observes rescuers clearing the rubble of a destroyed building in Kyiv on July 9

A girl from a volunteer group observes rescuers clearing the rubble of a destroyed building in Kyiv on July 9. (Photo: AFP)

Published: July 10, 2024 06:05 AM GMT
Updated: July 10, 2024 06:35 AM GMT

Pope Francis has expressed “deep shock” over recent attacks and loss of lives in Ukraine and Gaza and has urged more peace efforts.

Francis said he was shocked at the “escalation of violence,” Vatican News reported, citing a statement published on the Vatican’s Press Office website on July 9.

“While expressing sympathy for the victims and the innocent wounded,” the statement continued, “[Pope Francis] hopes and prays that practical pathways can soon be identified to put an end to the ongoing conflicts.”

The statement from Francis came after Russia struck cities across Ukraine, on July 8, killing scores of people and hitting a children’s hospital in Kyiv said to be the largest in the country, Vatican News reported.

Russia had allegedly fired a barrage of 40 missiles at several towns and cities in Ukraine on July 8, killing 43 and hitting the Okhmatdyt pediatric hospital in Kyiv, which housed some 627 children, AFP reported.

The attack was roundly condemned by governments across Europe and North America, with the UN Security Council on July 9 criticizing Russia for conducting "systemic attacks" on Ukraine's medical facilities.

Francis has consistently sought peace in the wars between Russia and Ukraine, and Israel and Gaza that have sparked tensions and humanitarian concerns worldwide.

The pope had even dispatched envoys to both territories with humanitarian aid and messages of closeness and concern to bring peace to the region and end the protracted conflicts that has seen millions displaced and thousands injured.

Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, apostolic nuncio in Ukraine, told Vatican Radio that the dialysis ward of the pediatric hospital was hit and expressed shock at the strike on an area where there are no military targets, Vatican News reported.

The most shocking thing about the attack was that those who were struck were not only children, “but children who need oncological care or liver transplants or other organ transplants,” Kulbokas said.

The Russian missiles targeted “the smallest of the smallest, the weakest of the weak,” Kulbokas said.

Earlier on July 7, Israeli forces launched a raid on the Latin Patriarchate's Holy Family School in Gaza City and reportedly killed four people and destroyed parts of the school, Vatican News reported.

Several Palestinian families had reportedly taken shelter at the school.

In a statement, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem which runs the school condemned “in the strongest terms,” the targeting of non-combatants, “or any belligerent actions that fall short of ensuring that civilians remain outside the combat scene.”

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