By Editorial Board of Our Sunday Visitor
Cardinal Pierbattista Piz
zaballa’s recent offer to exchange himself for the children held hostage in the Gaza Strip by Hamas is a testament to his extraordinary leadership and unwavering commitment to peace. This selfless act of courage has showcased his dedication to the people of the Holy Land — Christians, Jews and Muslims alike — and his tireless efforts to bring about reconciliation in a region marred by conflict.
Today, leaders are often defined by their political acumen or strategic decisions. Cardinal Pizzaballa stands out for his moral clarity. When asked if he would be willing to offer
himself in exchange for the innocent children held by Hamas, his response was unequivocal: “Anything, if that can lead to freedom and bring those children home, no problem. There is an absolute availability on my part.” These words reflect not only the moral expectations of his priestly vocation but also his readiness to act on his convictions.
The Israeli Ambassador to the Holy See, Raphael Schutz, praised the cardinal’s offer on X, formerly Twitter, saying, “My deepest heartfelt appreciation to His Eminence Cardinal Pizzaballa.”
As of this writing, more than 1,000 Christians are sheltering in church buildings in Gaza. While the Israeli military has warned them to leave the area, Cardinal Pizzaballa says they “practically all have chosen to stay there because it is safer for them to stay, since the situation is even more delicate elsewhere.”
The Vatican, under Cardinal Pizzaballa’s guidance, has also expressed its willingness to mediate a peace agreement and to focus on the release of hostages and the protection of innocent lives.
Urging the cause of peace
From the outset of the conflict, Cardinal Pizzaballa has urged a peaceful resolution. In a joint statement issued on Oct. 13 with the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem in the Holy Land, Cardinal Pizzaballa said, “We are witnessing a new cycle of violence with an unjustifiable attack against civilians in Israel.” Following the attacks by Hamas, Israel cut off water and electricity and closed border crossings into Gaza. In response, these Christian leaders courageously called for humanitarian aid to be delivered to Gaza. (More than 423,000 people in Gaza have already been displaced, the U.N. reports.)
The statement was met with criticism from Ambassador Schutz. Specifically, the ambassador objected to the claim, “We see a new circle of violence with unjustified attacks against all civilians.” Ambassador Schutz wrote on X, “?What actually happened was that the ‘circle of violence’ (typical false symmetry expression) started with an unprovoked criminal attack by Hamas + Islamic Jihad (the Patriarchs refrain from mentioning their names) murdering more than 1,300 Israelis and from other 35 nationalities mostly civilians.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen offered similar criticism of the statement. The minister told the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Paul Gallagher, “It is unacceptable that you put out a statement expressing worry primarily for Gazan civilians while Israel is burying 1,300 who were murdered.”
Morality can’t be abandoned in the response to terror
Israel has the right to defend itself. But that defense cannot come at the expense of innocent human life. News media report that Hamas continues to hide behind civilians. Palestinians are being prevented from leaving their homes and from moving to safer locations. The evil means through which this war is being fought must be clearly condemned, and it has been by Cardinal Pizzaballa and the leaders of Christian churches in the Holy Land.
For his part, Pope Francis called for the release of hostages and the protection of civilians on Oct. 15. “Humanitarian law is to be respected, especially in Gaza, where it is urgent and necessary to ensure humanitarian corridors and to come to the aid of the entire population,” the pope urged.
The response to terrorism cannot come at the expense of morality. And the leaders of the Catholic Church are teaching this clearly.
On Sept. 28, speaking to journalists, Cardinal Pizzaballa said, “To be a cardinal is not just a title, but also a responsibility, to be a voice from Jerusalem, of Jerusalem, about our situation, and also from Jerusalem to all the churches, to be able to say something positive for constructive building in this very complicated context.” In his words and actions, Cardinal Pizzaballa is carrying this responsibility with heroic courage on the global stage.
Hamas is not likely to accept the cardinal’s offer. But in extending it, he made the Christian response clear. The cardinal’s willingness to put his own life on the line for the sake of others is a remarkable example of Christian selflessness and compassion. His public, unshakeable commitment to the Gospel is an inspiration to all Catholics.
By Editorial Board of Our Sunday Visitor :Father Patrick Briscoe, O.P., Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott P. Richert, York Young