Pope Francis’ top representative in the Middle East said Monday he was willing to trade places with Israeli children taken hostage by Hamas terrorists.
Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, 58, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, proposed the swap in response to a question during a video conference with journalists in Italy.
“I am ready for an exchange, anything, if this can lead to freedom, to bring the children home. No problem. There is total willingness on my part,” he said.
“The first thing to do is to try to win the release of the hostages, otherwise there will be no way of stopping [an escalation]. We are willing to help, even me personally,” the monsignor continued.
Pizzaballa noted, however, that he and his office had not yet had any direct communication with Hamas since the horror attack of Israel on Oct. 7 that killed at least 1,300 people.
“You can’t talk to Hamas. It is very difficult,” he said.
At least 199 people were taken hostage, including many children.
On Friday, Hamas released disturbing footage that showed armed men cradling kidnapped Israeli babies and toddlers.
Pizzaballa oversees Roman Catholic activities in Israel and the Palestinian territories as well as Jordan and Cyprus, a region that is home to some 300,000 Roman Catholics.
The cardinal said that about 1,000 Christians were sheltering in Church buildings in northern Gaza after their homes were destroyed in Israel’s retaliatory strikes.
“They don’t know where to go because moving is dangerous,” he said.
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