Middle East

“It is Terrorism”: Pope Francis Denounces Killing of Two Christian Women in Gaza

The news came just a day after the Israel Defense Forces accidentally killed three hostages in Gaza.
Pope Francis
Pope FrancisMichael Campanella/Getty Images

In an address on his 87th birthday, Pope Francis denounced as “terrorism” the Israeli Defense Forces killing of two “unarmed civilians” who were sheltering in a Catholic church in Gaza.

“I continue to receive very grave and painful news from Gaza,” Francis said. “Unarmed civilians are the objects of bombings and shootings. And this happened even inside the Holy Family parish complex, where there are no terrorists, but families, children, people who are sick or disabled, nuns.”

A statement from the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which oversees Catholic Churches across Cyprus, Jordan, Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, reported Saturday that an IDF sniper “murdered two Christian women inside the Holy Family Parish in Gaza, where the majority of Christian families has taken refuge since the start of the war.”

The Pope said the victims of the IDF attack were Nahida Khalil Anton and her daughter Samar Kamal Anton, who were killed while they were going to the bathroom.

“Some are saying, ‘This is terrorism and war,’” the Pope said. “Yes, it is war. It is terrorism.”

The Latin Patriarchate statement said the Israeli military gave no warning before the attack, and that the two “were shot in cold blood inside the premises of the Parish, where there are no belligerents.”

Former Michigan Representative Justin Amash, who was the first Palestinian-American to serve in Congress and whose relatives were killed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza in October, responded to the news in a social media post on X, formerly Twitter.

“For Christians in Gaza—whose family members have been killed or maimed, whose homes and churches have been destroyed or badly damaged, and who suffer through sleepless nights of bombings—this Christmas will be one of great sadness and mourning,” Amash wrote. “Please pray for peace and reprieve from the IDF siege that is devastating this ancient community.”

In his address, the Pope also noted that earlier Saturday, an IDF tank struck the Convent of the Sisters of Mother Theresa in Gaza. The statement from the Latin Patriarchate said the attack destroyed the generator and fuel resources for the building, which currently houses over 54 disabled people.

The news comes just a day after IDF soldiers killed three hostages who were waving a white flag. The Israeli military has said the accidental killings violated its rules of engagement and is reviewing the actions of its soldiers.

As of Thursday, the Gaza Health Ministry reported that 18,787 people—including 7,729 children and 5,153 women—had been killed by Israel in Gaza since October 7.

“Let us pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering from the war in Ukraine, in Palestine, in Israel, and in the other zones of conflict,” Francis said in his address. “May the drawing close of Christmas reinforce the commitment to open the paths to peace.”