VATICAN CITY (Reuters) -Pope Francis deplored the "desperate" situation in Gaza on Wednesday as he urged the faithful to take "only one side" in the Israel-Hamas conflict, the side "of peace."
Speaking during his weekly audience in St Peter's Square, Francis did not mention the deadly Gaza hospital strike, for which Israelis and Palestinians are blaming each other.
"War does not solve any problem, it only sows death and destruction, increases hatred, multiplies revenge. War erases the future," he said.
"I urge believers to take only one side in this conflict, that of peace, but not with words but with prayer and total dedication," Francis added.
The pope pleaded for all possible efforts "to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe", and announced special prayers for peace in St Peter's Basilica at 6:00 p.m. (1600 GMT) Oct. 27.
He said Oct. 27 would be a "a day of fasting, prayers, penance", and invited all Christians, followers of other religions and those who care for world peace to join in.
(Reporting by Alvise Armellini, editing by Cristina Carlevaro and Bernadette Baum)