Rome [Italy], November 23: A messy dispute broke out on Wednesday over whether Pope Francis used the word "genocide" to describe events in Gaza, with Palestinians who met with him insisting that he did and the Vatican saying he did not.
The opposing versions emerged at an afternoon press conference with 10 Palestinians who met the pope on Wednesday morning at his Vatican residence. That meeting followed a separate one with Israeli relatives of hostages in Gaza.
But a statement sent by Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni, in response to question texted by a reporter, said the opposite.
Other participants at the Palestinian news conference concurred that they had heard the pope use the word genocide.
The participants said the pope was very informed about the situation in Gaza and the lack of water, medicine and basic necessities.
Israel has placed Gaza under siege and relentless bombardment since Hamas militants attacked southern Israeli towns on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 240 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.
Since then, more than 14,000 Gazans have been killed, about 40% of them children, according to medical officials in the Hamas-ruled territory, figures deemed reliable by the United Nations.
The Palestinians at their news conference said the pope condemned Hamas' action as terror, with more than one quoting the pope during the meeting as saying "terror should not justify terror".
Earlier on Wednesday, in unscripted words at his general audience, Francis said the conflict had gone beyond war.
Source: Fijian Broadcasting Corporation