VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis expressed his participation in the “unspeakable suffering” of the families of three kidnapped Israeli teens whose bodies were found June 30 in Hebron, West Bank.
In a statement conveying the pope’s condolences, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, called the killings “terrible and dramatic.”
“The assassination of innocent people is always an execrable and unacceptable crime and a serious obstacle on the path toward the peace for which we must tirelessly continue to strive and pray,” Father Lombardi said.
“Pope Francis participates in the unspeakable suffering of the families struck by this homicidal violence and the pain of all persons afflicted by the consequences of hatred,” Father Lombardi said, and he “prays that God might inspire all with thoughts of compassion and peace.”
After the boys’ bodies were found, Israeli military launched what it described as “precision strikes” on 34 sites in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli Defense Forces said the strikes were in response to 18 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel June 29-30.
The three teens were kidnapped in mid-June as they were hitchhiking home from their school in Gush Etzion, a cluster of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, near Bethlehem. Israeli officials accused Hamas, which recently formed a coalition government with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, of being responsible for the abduction.
Abbas condemned the kidnapping, and Palestinian security forces were coordinating with the Israelis to find the kidnappers.
Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali, chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, had asked anyone with information about the kidnapping of the three teens to come forward and help return the youths to their families. At the same time, June 25, he called on the Israeli army to keep its reaction and its search methods proportionate.
“Kidnapping three Israeli young people is not fair, and is against human rights and human dignity. We are opposed to this; this is not the right way to make peace,” he told Catholic News Service. “(But) the reaction of the Israeli army is disproportionate to what happened.”
At that point, he said, Israeli army forces had arrested some 600 Palestinians in their search for the youth; others estimated 400 were arrested.