Pope Francis in Israel
Pope Francis in IsraelFlash90

Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau addressed a letter today (Sunday) to Pope Francis in which he called on the Pontiff to retract comments made during a conversation with President Isaac Herzog last month in which he appeared to accuse both Israel and Hamas of “terrorism” in the ongoing war that started with the Hamas massacre of over 1,200 people in southern Israel on October 7. During the conversation, Pope Francis said that it is “forbidden to respond to terror with terror."

"I heard your statement following the attack on two women who were in the church compound in Gaza. I too am very sorry for their unnecessary death, my customary opinion on killing and death. However, I wish to comment on one statement that was made: “terror.” This statement, made in reference to the occurrence, is incorrect and even outrageous," Rabbi Lau's letter began.

The Chief Rabbi stated: "The State of Israel embarked on a just war in the face of attacks from Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen that threatened the very existence of the State. Islamic terrorism, which crosses almost all international borders, has reached our home. The murder, rape, vandalism and abuse suffered by civilians, the incessant calls for the destruction of Israel and the abduction of hundreds of innocents into captivity, including children, women, men, and the elderly, forced upon us a war for our existence. A war for our survival. Our life. Our desire to grow our crops in peace and live with our neighbors in dignity."

"As a person who is knowledgeable of the world’s history, you are surely aware of the suffering of the Jewish people throughout the ages. The people who introduced the concept of one God and the values of the Torah: compassion, kindness and mercy, were forced to stand up for themselves. An unfortunate mistake did indeed take place, a mistake that sadly resulted in the accidental death of the two women in the churchyard in Gaza. This, however, does not turn us into terrorists. It was not us who initiated the attacks with the stated purpose of murdering, pillaging, humiliating and killing civilians. On the contrary, we are doing everything possible to prevent and reduce harm to civilians.

"I apologize for feeling an inner obligation to respond to your words, but I am concerned that one of the innumerable followers of the Head of the Catholic Church, who eagerly absorb your observations, may perhaps misinterpret your words. Therefore, based on our acquaintance and past meetings, I respectfully request you to change your definition of the events. I pray that peace, calm and serenity prevail in our world," the Chief Rabbi's letter concluded.