Pope praises friendship of grieving Israeli, Palestinian fathers

Pope Francis meets with two fathers who both lost their daughters in violent conflicts, Bassam Aramin from Palestine, right, and Rami Elhanan from Israel, before his weekly general audience in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican March 27, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Of the thousands of people packed into the Paul VI Audience Hall for Pope Francis’ weekly general audience, two visitors received special praise from the pope for their unlikely friendship.

The presence of Bassam Aramin from Palestine and Rami Elhanan from Israel, seated side by side in the front row March 27, offered “a beautiful testimony” of overcoming the hostility sown by war and embracing fraternity, the pope said.

The two men are fathers from countries whose political tensions have repeatedly turned violent and which claimed their daughters’ lives.

Aramin’s 10-year-old daughter, Abir, was killed in 2007 when she was hit by a rubber bullet fired by an Israeli soldier as she was leaving school. Elhanan’s 13-year-old daughter, Smadar, was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber during a 1997 terrorist attack in Jerusalem.

At the end of his catechesis, Pope Francis pointed to the two fathers seated in front of him and publicly praised their example.

“They do not look at the enmity of war, but they look at the friendship of two men who care for each other and have passed through the same crucifixion,” the pope said. “Let us think of this very beautiful testimony of two people who have suffered the war in the Holy Land through their daughters.”

Aramin and Elhanan’s friendship inspired the 2020 novel “Apeirogon” by Colum McCann. Meeting with Pope Francis before the audience, the pair gave a copy of the book to the pope.

In a video of meeting posted on X by the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, Elhanan is seen showing the pope a picture of their daughters on his phone; Pope Francis put his hand on the screen to bless them.

Placing his hand on Aramin’s shoulder Elhanan said, “If we can be brothers, everyone can be brothers.”

The two have been promoting the Parents Circle-Families Forum, a joint Israeli-Palestinian organization of over 600 families that have lost immediate family members in conflicts between Israel and Palestine.


Scroll to Top