Catholic Cardinal of Jerusalem offers to exchange himself for Israeli children taken hostage by Hamas

Jerusalem's Catholic Cardial Pierbattista Pizzaballa has offered himself to Hamas terrorists in exchange for the child hostages being held in Gaza.

"If I am ready for an exchange? Anything, if this can lead to freedom and bring those children back home, no problem," said Pizzaballa, who represents the Pope in the Holy Land. As the Cardinal of Jerusalem, Pizzaballa also tends to the 300,000 or so faithful and the business of the Chuch in ISrael, Jordan, Cypress, Gaza and the West Bank. 

He made the comments while speaking via video conference to journalists in Italy, Vatican News reports, when he was if he was ready for an exchange to bring the hostages home.

"On my part, absolute willingness," Pizzaballa said, though his office has not been in contact with Hamas terrorists, who abducted more than 150 civilians and children during an attack on the nation on October 11. Some 1,300 people were killed, including Americans.

"The first thing to do is to try to win the release of the hostages, otherwise there will be no way of stopping (an escalation," he warned. "We are willing to help, even me personally."

"We have offered our readiness at least to try to bring the hostages back, at least some of them, this is being attempted," he said on behalf of the Holy See. "It is very difficult because, for mediation, you need to have interlocutors. And at this moment, it's not possible to talk to Hamas."

After the Hamas attack, Israel launched retaliatory strikes, urging civilians to leave the target areas, though leaving Gaza is only possible through the Rafah crossing into Egypt since the passages into Israel have been closed. About 2,750 have been killed in those retaliatory strikes, officials in Gaza, which is governed by Hamas, have said.

Pizzaballa said about 1,000 Christians are among those who have been displaced in Gaza and they are sheltering in Church buildings. "They don't know where to go because moving is dangerous," he said.

Israel is prepating a ground invasion of Gaza.

"My concerns are essentially twofold," Pizzaballa said of that pending fight, "the first is, following the ground operation, I don't know what it's called, the much more severe humanitarian crisis that will be created. This is the first fear, as there will undoubtedly be many victims."

Pizzaballa spoke of "the other fear," notably "that this conflict becomes a regional conflict, involving not only Gaza or possibly the West Bank but also Lebanon, then the Islamic world could ignite, all the Arab countries: I don't know, it's very difficult to predict the developments, but the fear of regional expansion is real, and I'm not the only one saying it."

Image: Title: pizzaballa gaza