Pope Francis warns against a 'much bigger war' after Iranian attack on Israel

(Screenshot from BBC)Pope Francis delivering his 2017 "urbi et orbi" address on East Sunday, April16, 2017.

Pope Francis has made "a heartfelt appeal" to "stop every action that could stoke the spiral of violence and risk dragging the Middle East into a much bigger war conflict" on the morning after Iran's attack on Israel.

He also appealed on April 14, for a ceasefire in Gaza, calling for the release of hostages held in the Strip and the provision of humanitarian aid to the 2.3 million Palestinians living there, America, the Jesuit Review reported on Apri 14.

According to UN and humanitarian agencies, the majority of people in Gaza are on the brink of starvation, America reported.

World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Jerry Pillay, on behalf of the global church fellowship, expressed grave concern regarding the recent escalation of violence in the Middle East following the first direct confrontation between Iran and Israel.

The Pope pleaded with nations to exercise restraint and avoid an escalation of violence in the Middle East, Catholic News Service reported.

The pontiff issued his "urgent appeal" when he greeted thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter's Square at midday on April 14 after his Sunday mass and after Israel threatened a military reprisal against Iran for the previous night's attack.

It was the first time since the establishment of the Iranian Republic in 1979 that Iran, with a population of 89 million, mostly Shite Muslims, has directly attacked Israel, which its population of nine million.

"I follow with prayer, with concern and with pain, the news that arrived in these last hours of the deterioration of the situation in Israel because of the intervention by Iran," the Pope said.

"I make a heartfelt appeal to stop every action that could stoke the spiral of violence with the risk of dragging the Middle East into a much bigger war conflict," said Francis.

He made an appeal to prevent further escalation of the violence and the real risk of widening the war in the region.

He has appealed on several occasions, including earlier this week, to avoid this risk of escalation, and on April 14, he joined world leaders, including from the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, and the Middle East, in an appeal to Israel.

Francis did not name Israel specifically but urged not making the situation even worse with an attack on Iranian soil.

"No one should threaten the existence of the other," the Pope said in what appeared to be an appeal to Iran (again without naming it), a country that has strongly supported the Palestinian cause.

The Palestinian question is at the heart of the present conflict in the Middle East that started on Oct. 7 when Hamas, which Iran supports, attacked southern Israel, killing around 1,200 Israelis and taking over 200 hostages (133 are still being held hostage, though it seems that around 40 may have died).

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