Pope Francis has deemed the violence stemming from the Israel and Hamas issue as “terrorism”.

“They suffer so much and I heard how they both suffer”, he said on Wednesday after meeting with Israeli families of captives held by Hamas and Palestinians who have family in Gaza

“Wars do this, but here we have gone beyond wars. This is not war, this is terrorism,” he added.

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The head of the Catholic Church also called everyone to pray for peace so that both sides would “not go ahead with passions, which, in the end, kill everyone”.

Jewish groups reacts

Jewish groups, however, have criticised Pope Francis, demanding an explanation for accusing both Hamas and Israel of “terrorism.”

The Council of the Assembly of Italian Rabbis (ARI) issued a statement on Thursday, pointing at “Church leaders” for not condemning the Hamas attack and of “putting the aggressor and the attacked on the same plane in the name of a supposed impartiality.”

Similarly, American Jewish Committee (AJC) posted on X (formerly Twitter):

“Later in the day, he described the Israel-Hamas war as ‘beyond war’ as ‘terrorism.’ Hamas’ butchering and kidnapping of civilians is terrorism. Israel’s self-defense is not. Vatican, please clarify.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a US-based Jewish human rights organisation, also called on the pope “not to forget that all the loss and suffering since October 7th stems from the intolerable actions of Hamas.”

The statement added that the responsibility of all the suffering and loss of both the families of hostages and civilians in Gaza was “on the hands of the Hamas terrorists who, on October 7th, inflicted in the most brutal way, the worst mass murder of Jews since the defeat of Nazi Germany and World War II.”

The Jerusalem Post also reports that Italian rabbis also questioned the worth of “decades of Jewish-Christian dialog” if when Jews are attacked the Vatican responds with “diplomatic acrobatics.”