Pope makes video for AMIA bombing anniversary; calls Abbas, Peres about conflict

Julie Wiener

ROME (JTA) – Pope Francis phoned Israeli and Palestinian leaders to urge an end to fighting and made a video to express solidarity with Jews in his native Argentina on the 20th anniversary of the AMIA bombing.

Francis personally called Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday to urge peace. A Vatican statement said Francis had made the calls “to share his very serious concerns regarding the current situation of conflict involving in particular the Gaza Strip which, in a climate of growing hostility, hatred and suffering for the two populations, is claiming many victims and giving rise to a serious humanitarian emergency.”

Francis hosted Abbas and Peres at a prayer meeting for peace in the Vatican garden June 8, a few days after he returned from a visit to the Holy Land. In his phone calls, the Vatican statement said, the pope “reminded the presidents, whom he considers to be men of peace and seekers of peace, of the need to continue to pray and endeavor to ensure that all the interested parties and those who hold political office at local and international level work to bring an end to hostilities, making efforts to promote truce, peace and reconciliation in the hearts of those involved.”

Meanwhile, Francis sent an unprecedented video message to Argentine Jews to mark 20 years since the 1994 attack on the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires, where he served as archbishop before becoming pope last year. The video was made for Friday’s ceremonies in Buenos Aires marking the anniversary of the bombing, Argentina’s worst terror attack, which left 85 dead. It was recorded at the Vatican two weeks ago by the pope’s friend Claudio Epelman, the director of the Latin American Jewish Congress, on Epelman’s smartphone. In it Francis expressea solidarity with the Argentine Jewish community and calls for justice for victims of the attack. “On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the tragedy at the AMIA, I would like to express my solidarity with the Jewish community of Argentina and with all the family members of the victims, be they Jews or Christians,” he said in Spanish.

“Terrorism is lunacy. Terrorism’s only purpose is to kill. It does not build anything, it only destroys,” Francis said. “For this reason, I stand side by side with all those who have seen lives cut short, hopes destroyed, and ruin. Today, together with my solidarity and my prayers for all the victims, comes my desire for justice. May justice be done!”

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