VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis condemned the violence at the West Jerusalem synagogue and appealed for both Israelis and Palestianians to work toward peace in a speech at the Vatican Wednesday. The Pontiff called the deaths of four rabbis and one Israeli police officer "unacceptable," and thanked God for the freedom he and many Catholics have to worship in peace.
"I am following with great concern the alarming increase in tension in Jerusalem and other areas of the Holy Land, with unacceptable episodes of violence that do not even spare places of worship," Pope Francis said.
"I assure a special prayer for all the victims of this dramatic situation and for those who suffer its consequences. From the depths of my heart, I appeal to those parties involved to put an end to this spiral of hate and violence and to take courageous decisions for reconciliation and peace," the head of the Catholic Church continued.
The Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue, which was located in the ultra-orthodox Har Nof neighborhood, was attacked by Palestinian cousins Udai Abu Jamal and Ghassan Abu Jamal, who left a total of five dead and seven others wounded. The bodies of Rabbis Moshe Twersky, Cary Levine, Avraham Goldberg and Aryeh Kopinsky were found inside the synagogue.
The fifth murder victim was police officer Zidan Nahad Seif, an Arab Druse citizen of Israel, who was shot responding to the attack. He was hospitalized in critical condition and succumbed to his wounds Wednesday night, Nov. 18.
Although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to respond to the attack with a "heavy hand" Tuesday, he slightly softened his rhetoric later in the week, aligning himself with the Pope and other political and spiritual leaders who have rebuked ideas of revenge and vigilantism.
"As a nation we will settle the score with every terrorist and their dispatchers, and we have proved we will do so, but no one may take the law into their own hands, even if spirits are riled and blood is boiling," he said in a broadcast statement.
Friday marks Pro Orantibus Day, which is a Catholic day dedicated to monks and nuns in cloistered religious communities, according to the Independent Catholic News. Pope Francis took the opportunity to talk about the blessing of being able to worship freely without being harassed.
"Building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a torment!" he said.