By Associated Press - Monday, April 8, 2024

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis met Monday with relatives of hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7, marking the six-month anniversary of the attack in southern Israel with an hour-long audience.

The Vatican released photos of the encounter, showing relatives of several of the hostages sitting in a semicircle in front of Francis in his private library in the Apostolic Palace. Each one held a poster with a photo and the name of a loved one.

It was the second time Francis has met with relatives of the hostages. On Nov. 22, he met with a delegation of Israelis, and then separately a delegation of Palestinians whose relatives had been harmed during the long Mideast conflict.

Francis has called for the immediate release of the hostages and a cease-fire in Gaza, and for humanitarian aid to urgently reach desperate Palestinians.

Ashley Waxman Bakshi, relative of hostages Agah and Li-Yah Berger, said the audience was “very powerful” for the families.

“He was very clear about his solidarity for the release of the hostages,” Waxman Bakshi told reporters afterward.

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