update deskIsrael at War

Israel protests to Vatican over ‘disproportionate force’ charge

The Holy See's top diplomat described Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza as a "carnage" to reporters.

View of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, Aug. 17, 2016. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90.
View of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, Aug. 17, 2016. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90.

The Israeli embassy to the Vatican on Wednesday lodged a formal protest after Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Holy See’s secretary of state, accused the Jewish state of employing disproportionate force in the Gaza Strip.

“His Eminence Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin stated that the 30 thousand Palestinians killed in Gaza, according to Hamas sources, indicate that Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 massacre is disproportionate,” stated the embassy in a post on X. 

“This is a deplorable statement. Judging the legitimacy of a war without taking into account all relevant circumstances and data inevitably leads to wrong conclusions,” the statement added.

Speaking with journalists at an event with Italian officials on Tuesday, Cardinal Parolin spoke about the war against Hamas terrorists, saying, “I believe we are all outraged by what is happening, by this carnage, but we must have the courage to move forward and not lose hope.”

The Vatican’s top diplomat told reporters he believed “that Israel’s right to defense, which has been invoked to justify this operation, [should] be proportional, and certainly with 30,000 deaths, it is not.”

An editorial published on Wednesday in the Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, reinforced the cardinal’s messaging.

“No one can define what is happening in the Strip as ‘collateral damage’ in the fight against terrorism. The right to defense, Israel’s right to bring the perpetrators of the October massacre to justice, cannot justify this carnage,” it read, according to a Reuters translation.

Earlier this month, Pope Francis decried the “terrible increase in attacks against Jews around the world” and the rise in antisemitism since Hamas’s Oct. 7 terror rampage across southern Israel.

“We, Catholics, are very concerned about the terrible increase in attacks against Jews around the world,” the 87-year-old pontiff wrote in a letter addressed to “My Jewish brothers and sisters in Israel” dated Feb. 2.

Francis drew criticism for previous remarks during the now nearly four-month-long war, including on Christmas, in which he condemned the Israel Defense Forces’ “appalling harvest” of civilian victims in Gaza.

Francis has also appeared to accuse the Jewish state of terrorism, reportedly telling Israeli President Isaac Herzog last year that it’s “forbidden to respond to terror with terror.”

On Dec. 17, the pope said, “Some say, ‘This is terrorism and war.’ Yes, it is war. It is terrorism.”

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which is based in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, stated on Dec. 16 that an Israeli sniper had “murdered” two Christian women in a Gaza church. “No warning was given, no notification was provided,” it said. “They were shot in cold blood inside the premises of the parish, where there are no belligerents.”

On Oct. 7, the patriarchate blamed Israel for the Oct. 7 massacre. “The cycle of violence that has killed numerous Palestinians and Israelis in the past months has exploded this morning, Saturday Oct. 7, 2023,” it posted. “The operation launched from Gaza and the reaction of the Israeli Army are bringing us back to the worst periods of our recent history.”

Israeli ground forces entered Gaza on Oct. 27 following weeks of air strikes in response to Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, in which some 1,200 people were murdered, thousands more wounded and 253 taken captive.

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